A Spot of Tea In My Whisky

19 Dec 2018 by Riaan Jacob George

What’s the next big thing in mixology, you ask? Experts will tell you that tea — yes, you heard that right — tea is indeed the hottest ingredient on the bar counter right now.

A trend best visible at the Indian outposts of Yauatcha, the widely awarded tea and dim sum house from London. Yauatcha India’s mixologists decided to spike their cocktails with a hint of tea, and the results are marvellous. For example, the interestingly named Golden Ging Tea cocktail, is a heady concoction of passion fruit puree, ginger juice, lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, ginger ale and orange bitters. The perfect marriage, however, comes in the two star ingredients infused together — second flush Darjeeling tea made by steeping 15 mg of green Pu Erh tea leaves in 700 ml of Ballantine’s Finest whisky for eight hours. This whisky-tea blend seems to have found favour among Yauatcha’s discerning diners across its Indian outlets, the mixologists tell me.

To better understand this trend, I embarked on an unusual experiment of sorts, to the tea plantations of Darjeeling, in the company of the Yauatcha culinary team as well as whisky experts from Ballantine’s. We ambled through the tea plantations of the Ging Tea House, dating back to 1864, also one of the first colonial tea plantations in India. It is from here that Yauatcha sources its “exclusive” blend of Darjeeling tea, after having done extensive research to come up with the perfect aromatic tea to serve with its dim sum — and now, its cocktails.

What, then, is the motivation behind blending these two unlikely suspects — tea and whisky — at this eatery? Well, for starters, few people know that the DNA of Yauatcha continues to be a “tea and dim sum house”. The second flush Darjeeling served here is a blend that is exclusive to Yauatcha. As its name suggests, the tea comes from Ging Tea House in Darjeeling and its wonderfully woody and spicy notes give it a sweet flavour making it truly comforting. As a pure tea, its aromatics come from the neighbouring flower plantations, which have naturally infused the tea blend with a distinctive fragrance. Grown at higher altitudes and at lower temperatures, this black tea is uniquely treated, so that it offers a subtle golden hue.

As things stand, tea-infused cocktails such as the Golden Ging Tea cocktail are making an appearance in bar menus across the country. While Yauatcha’s exclusive tea lends itself perfectly to a Ballantine’s cocktail, one must not forget what it was originally destined for — a perfect accompaniment to a dim sum experience. For instance, the hugely popular Supreme Taste of Yauatcha Lunch experience, which is a six-course menu, featuring a soup, a salad, two selections of dim sums, followed by mains and a dessert. Delicacies will include chicken and coriander dumplings, vegetarian poached Peking dumpling and prawn shui mai.

As for this trending concoction of whisky and tea, we’re not complaining — it is indeed a perfect match.

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