Last week I had a chance to attend a very beautiful dinner for Gryphon Tea Company at Tables, Grand Hyatt Erawan. Gryphon Tea Company is a Singaporean tea brand founded in 2006. Unlike the other tea companies that have entered the Thai market in the recent months, Gryphon’s teas have a signature twist of using Asian inspired ingredients to showcase its local roots which has attracted international accolades such as the Great Taste Award (UK.)
Prior to the dinner, I was a coffee drinker but a tea hoarder. I, Nida, is a self-confessed shoppaholic when it comes to teas. Every time I lay my eyes on those beautiful tin canisters, I could never resist buying some more. Yet, I barely drank them. Every time I needed a caffeine fix, I went for my dearly beloved coffee, every time I needed something refreshing, I went for juices, and, of course, every time I needed something to pair with food, I went with wines. Therefore, my poor tea boxes were merely my kitchen decorations. Luckily, the Gryphon tea dinner gave me a new found love for tea!
At the dinner, Mr. Lim Tian Wee, the 4th generation of his family’s tea business, explained to us the relationship between teas and perception. Once on his visit to Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market, he was given a sample of bonito stock in a cup which he thought was tea. As he tried it, he found it to be drinkable, therefore, he realized the importance of how the teas are served. We explored this concept at the dinner, instead of pairing wine with the food, a tea was carefully selected to compliment the taste of each course. And they were served in wine glasses! It was a whole new way of appreciating tea.
All the teas were cold brewed and served cold. Cold brewing requires steeping the tea leaves in cold water for a minimum of 8 hours. This allows the lovely flavor of the tea to develop without the polyphenols (the bitter tannins.) So you only get the essence of the tea itself.
Our first course was foie gras pate en crute with hanami tea jelly paired with Hanami tea
Hanami – a light and elegant green tea with floral top notes inspired by the cherry blossoms in japan.
The foie gras was decliciously creamy and goes really well with the tea.
Second course was minced spiced prawn on lemongrass served with White Gingerlilly tea.
White Gingerlilly tea – a very fragrant white tea inspired by Thai cuisine. It contains galangal which could be regarded as pungent, however, the tea was actuallly very fragrant and refreshing. The tea was served in a burgundy glass to help concentrate the tea’s fragrance.
This dish was inspired by the popular viethnamese dish กุ้งพันอ้อย this dish has a stronger flavor from the curry paste which goes well with the galangal in the tea. I found that both the tea and the food taste better together rather than separately since the fragrant of the bold tea helps round up the taste of the curried prawn really well.
The third course was my favorite of the night and it was a vanilla bean risotto with seared scallop paired with osmanths sencha tea.
Osmanths sencha is a roasted green tea with the aroma from the yellow Osmanthus flower from China that can only be harvested between October and November. As soon as the tea was poured into my wine glass, I could smell the sweet scent of freshly cut peaches. It was, I think, one of my favorite teas I’ve ever tried since I started tea hoarding!
To infuse the scent of vanilla into the risotto, the chef kept the arborio rice seeled in a jar with some vanilla pods for two weeks which gave this creamy risotto a very subtle yet enticing hint of vanilla. The dish is topped with a large piece of fresh scallop which is full of amino acids that foes well with green teas since they both allow the food you are eating to develop full aroma (another useful information I learned from Mr. Lim Tian Wee that night.)
Sorbet of Pearl of the Orient
The next course was interesting – braised lamb short ribs paired with straits chai.
Straits Chai – a black tea with Indian mixed spices such as cardamom, fennel, pepper, and oranges.
This was actually my first time drinking chai tea without milk. The tea was bold, and full bodied. Never had I thought I would be pairing chai tea with a very fatty piece of braised lamb, yet I think the pairing was very successful. Though I couldn’t say I didn’t miss red wine in this course, the rich flavorful lamb could stand up the to strong scent of the tea without clashing – very interesting, I thought.
Last but not least, desserts: we enjoyed an array of scrumtious desserts at the Chamber private room. Some highlights were the spheres of tea with gold flexes in them and also the tart tartin!
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at this dinner and learned a lot of new tea insights. I am not typing up this entry with a glass of cold-brewed tea in my hand (although I don’t think I am getting it just right yet, but at least I’m using up some of my tea horder’s collection which is a huge step!)