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How apropos that I should be learning about one of the oldest beverages in the world at the oldest hotel in London? Opened in 1837, Brown’s Hotel has been welcoming guests since that time with a warm cup of tea and a scone. I was one of them. Upon touch down from Heathrow, Brown’s was always my first stop for afternoon tea – chintz covered walls, comfy old sofas and something that no one else in town served – toasted scones!
Brown’s has moved on and modernized since the 1980s when I sampled my first Lapsang Souchong, but their afternoon tea still draws them in year after year. One of the reasons might be is that they serve Jing Tea.
I was invited to sip this ultra luxury tea brand by its founder, Edward Eisler. Like Heston Blumenthal, whose life was transformed by one specific meal in France, Edward’s lightening bolt was the traditional Chinese tea ceremony. At the early age of 16, his path was fated and here we were, sampling the fruits of his labor. Needless to say, Jing Tea is served at the Fat Duck!
I have been an afternoon tea drinker since I was young but always had my morning coffee, religiously, since the age of 12. On my first trip to India, more than 10 years ago, I discovered spicy, warming Masala Tea (known here as Chai) and substituted that for my morning beverage. So Edward didn’t have to convince me of its benefits. But did you know that China has over 10,000 different varieties of tea? Yellow Tea was Chairman Mao’s favorite? The caffeine in tea wakes you up and relaxes you at the same time? Neither did I.
Jing means Essence and Edward had tapped into the intrinsic nature (essence) of a whole new world of tea drinkers. According to a survey done by Jing, “fewer than one in three of us now opt for a classic “builder brew”, with green tea the most populated alternative…” What makes it luxurious is not its price, but the effort gone into producing such a beautifully cared for product – making it true to its name: Gong Fu.
No, we’re not talking martial arts. Gong-Fu actually means Highly Skilled. The new Jing Gong Fu Tea set at Brown’s is just that: a gorgeous collection of glass teapot, pitcher, cups set atop a lovely bamboo water tray and the newest additions to their tea library: Jing Huiming Spring (green), Jing Golden Gong Fu (black) and Jing Jun Sham Silver Needle (yellow). Another lesson learned: here you will not find huge pots of tea slowly going from hot to warm to tepid to cold. Your tea is served in the small glass pots in order to control the flavor more easily and keep every mouthful hot.
We tasted several Jing Teas, including the new ones on the Brown’s Menu, but, in my opinion, the Yellow was the way to go. I understand why it was always on the Chairman’s Christmas list – light, fresh – I could imagine him drinking it all day. Who wouldn’t want to feel awake and relaxed all the time when running one of the biggest countries in the world?
NB: I was the guest of Brown’s Hotel & I can’t thank them enough for inviting me to experience Jing Tea. Everything I write is always my own opinion!
*The photo of the complete set was provided by Jing Tea.