Just last week, we were invited to tea at the Ritz Carlton. One thing about the tea they serve at the Ritz – it’s lovely! The three tier afternoon tea set over-flowing with freshly baked scones, quiches, mouth-watering finger sandwiches and delicate pastries is a sight to behold. My tummy rumbled, but first, the serious business. This time round, a Ronnefeldt TeaMaster® , Mr. Andreas Aufmkolk, would be conducting a presentation and interactive tea tasting to introduce and explain the 40 different types of tea that they sell. With over ten years of experience in the tea industry this guy was really a recognised authority on the beverage, and we couldn’t wait to meet him.
Tea, next to water, is the most widely consumed liquid in the world. There are countless numbers of different teas, tea varieties and ways of enjoying tea. Whether you prefer black teas, green tea, oolongs, fruit or herbal infusions, Andreas was here to tell us all about the differences in quality when is comes to tea, and why it’s important to know about the variety and the brand of tea you’re buying, because there are differences and you can taste them. No-one is born a tea connoisseur especially not me (I much prefer coffee) but I was told that trying out new tastes could awaken the tea drinker in me. I agreed to partake, hoping to be wow-ed by this awesome tea.
Mr. Aufmkolk started off by giving a short presentation on the history of tea and where Ronnefeldt started from. He then went on to introduce the different Ronnefeldt teas, explaining the subtle differences between them and their origins. This was concluded with a tasting session, where we would put our newly learnt skills to the test. The rumble of the tea cart containing over 40 different kinds of Ronnefeldt tea was an awesome sight – definitely nothing simple about this simple cup of tea!
Two leaves and one bud – time plucking by hand
Whether the tea is plucked properly also has an effect on the quality of the tea. Teas from Ronnefeldt are, therefore, plucked with care by hand. It is mainly women who, standing between the long rows of tea bushes, strip the leaves with one skilful movement of the hand. Only a fine plucking is suitable for producing the best quality, i.e. only the last bud on a branch covered in a white down and the two newest leaves next to it are plucked. High grade fine plucking demands skill, sensitivity and patience before the tea can be deemed to be first class. Wow, what amazing care.. and no wonder they choose women to do the plucking eh?
The different types of tea
INDIA – DARJEELING
Darjeeling: Tea growing area in the Indian Himalayas. The most precious teas are grown in this area up to a height of 2,500m. The continuous change from dry to moist air, from chilly conditions to intensive sun, with mist and monsoon rain the great aroma and the flowery elegance of Darjeeling tea is developed. Connoisseurs value the mild and flowery taste of First Flush (Springtime Darjeeling) from the first harvests. Second flush Darjeeling is highly aromatic. Both are perfect served with or without fine white sugar.
INDIA – ASSAM
Assam is a state in the North-East of India. The estates are located on the slopes of river Brahmaputra at heights of 300 m to 800 m and form the largest connected tea growing area in the world. With a humid tropical climate, strong, spicy teas are harvested. Tea drinkers who prefer strong, malty, full-bodied teas – preferably with crystal sugar and cream will enjoy Assam.
CEYLON (SRI LANKA)
Sri Lanka is an island in the Indian Ocean. The best teas are grown in the highlands at heights between 1,000m and 2,000m. The monsoon rain dictates the timing of the harvest between June and September. When it rains in the west of the island, high quality teas are harvested in the eastern UVA district. In the west, the best Dimbula teas are plucked when it rains in the east between January and March. Teas from Ceylon are not heavy, have a lemony slightly steely aroma and a wonderful reddish colour. Ceylon teas are suitable for a hint of milk.
Preventing fermentation of the leaves creates green teas. Enzymes in the freshly plucked leaves normally start the fermentation process. To create green teas the leaves are treated under very strong heat after the withering process thus preventing fermentation. In Japan the withered leaves are steamed, in China the tea is pan roasted.
The most famous flavoured tea is definitely Earl Grey, which was introduced to Europe in the 19th century. But the real masters of flavouring tea were the Chinese who started 2,000 years ago by combining them with Jasmine, rose petals and chrysanthemums. Apparently Ronnefeldt’s tea taster develops selected teas by blending different pieces of fruit, peels, petals, leaves or spices and adding fine, precious oils to create new and fascinating compositions. Japanese Sencha with its large unrolled leaves is one of the best because the flavouring oils adhere perfectly to its large leaf surface over a long period. A superb example of a deliciously flavoured green tea is the ever so popular Morgentau (Morning Dew).
I am totally loony over the clotted cream and jam and scones at the Ritz !
the tower of scones that had us babbling..
care to quiche?
more finger food
desserts that paired with our tea, to a Tee!
Our take home message was that just like wine , one could pair tea with food. The lighter tasting teas with lighter food, the flavoured teas with desserts and green tea with the somewhat savory and “fishier” smelling items such as smoked salmon sandwiches. However, there is no hard and fast rule and Andreas encouraged us to experiment and see what we liked, for ourselves. All in all a great and enlightening experience. I have actually gotten quite the hang of drinking tea, I think. I might give it a second chance;)
About the Ronnefeldt TeaMaster®:
A tea drinker for as long as he can remember, Mr. Aufmkolk grew up in the northern regions of Germany where tea drinking is very much a way of life. In 1994 he kick-started his association with Ronnefeldt while working a property that served the tea. In 2007 he trained and achieved his TeaMaster® Silver qualification in Frankfurt where he successfully completed the course covering history, the processing of tea as well as a two-hour examination and blind tasting. His visit to KL was an opportunity for us to learn about the various traditional and modern teas, get a qualified opinion on where the industry is heading and what new blends and trends there are to watch out for.The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur
168, Jalan Imbi
Kuala Lumpur, 55100
Phone: (603) 2142 8000
Fax: (603) 2143 8080