It's tea-time, folks!

Updated: 2018-03-09 06:03

By Maggie Beale(HK Edition)

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Stylish afternoon tea is enjoying a revival with new tea sets on offer in Hong Kong restaurants. Afternoon tea was first introduced in England in the 1840s by Anna, the Duchess of Bedford, a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria and a lady of style. The practice continues with ladies who lunch and Hong Kong is no exception.

Today some of the dos and don'ts from that era still survive. These include the cautioning against putting lemon and milk together in one's tea to stop it from curdling. Then there are some other rules that are not followed any more. For example: do not place items that are not part of the tea service, such as keys, sunglasses, or phones, on the tea table. Just try telling that to anyone here in Hong Kong!

Initially consumed mostly as a medication, the soothing properties of tea were discovered by the Chinese ruler Shen Nong about 5,000 years ago when tea leaves fell into his cup of hot water by happenstance. Today, the planet's most ancient tea tree is over 3,200 years old and located in Fengqing county in Southwest China's Yunnan province.

Tea was first introduced to Europe by a Portuguese priest called Jasper de Cruz who traveled to China in 1560 and brought some tea plants back home with him.

Commercial production of tea in India was begun by the British East India Company who converted large tracts of land into tea plantations. Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, with over 70 percent of the produce being consumed within the country.

One of the most astute tea-related comments was probably made by a former first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt: "Women are like tea bags - they don't know how strong they are until they get into hot water!"

That's as maybe. Two Hong Kong restaurants of the Cafe Deco Group are serving afternoon tea as a speciality at the moment. The Made in HK Restaurant at APM, Millennium City 5 in Kwun Tong and the Dim Sum Bar in Gateway Arcade of Harbour City in Tsim Sha Tsui are offering Spring Honey Tea in two flavors - roselle pear honey tea and longan peach gum black sugar honey tea. The latter is prepared with peach gum, longan and black sugar from Okinawa and "is a good companion to a girl's skin". There is also a Tea Time All-you-can-eat promotion available Monday to Thursday except public holidays (2:30 pm to 5:30 pm), with over 35 items including the classic dim sum to choose from.

Chosen by tea-lovers for its invigorating and anti-oxidant qualities, Japanese powdered green tea was first selected as a key ingredient in the celebration of spring - a time of nature's awakening.

At the Mira Hong Kong's COCO cafe, tea is served with a playful twist, as part of a set with buttery matcha scones with cranberry and white chocolate along with clotted cream and mixed berries jam; and, with a nod to Easter traditions, also with fluffy, lightly spiced cross buns, paired with a fragrant yuzu and matcha mocktail, a choice of seasonal teas or one of COCO's signature coffees.

The Gradini Ristorante E Bar Italiano in the Pottinger Hong Kong in Central has also launched a Spring Blossom Afternoon Tea Set featuring a scrumptious spread of patisseries elegantly displayed in a vintage glass jewelry box along with a duo of floral-infused cocktails.

Cafe 103 at the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong never fails to pamper dessert aficionados with its enticing afternoon teas and they're doing it again until April 30, by dishing out handcrafted delights brimming with cleverly blended flavors of vanilla and Australian pear.

Executive chef Peter Find has designed outstanding savory treats by matching dark rye bread with refreshing raspberry jam to tone down the richness of foie gras terrine, making pumpernickel with foie gras terrine and raspberry jam a flavorful light bite for mid-day. An enticing blend of smoked salmon, sour cream, lemon and vanilla seeds, or Swiss roll with smoked salmon rillettes is sure to whet the appetite.

Are you still curious about the Duchess of Bedford's favorite brew? It was a blend of Muscatel, Darjeeling, Ceylon and perfumed jasmine!

It's tea-time, folks!

(HK Edition 03/09/2018 page9)