Category : Tea tasting

With Bryan Esposito, pastry chef at the Collectionneur Hotel in Paris

Part of my job is to introduce the incredible variety of flavours among teas to current and future chefs. This is the flipside of my work out in the fields with the farmers. On the one hand I select premium teas; on the other, I help chefs understand how to use them. There are teas of different colours, different origins and also of different varieties. These differences create the range and variety in the gastronomic qualities of tea. You have to taste them to understand, which is what I’m doing here with Bryan Esposito, pastry chef at the Collectionneur Hotel in Paris and former pastry chef at the Westminster Hotel. Introducing someone to the great range in the flavours of teas also means explaining the best way to obtain the liquor for the intended use. The amount of tea used, and the time and method of infusion, will differ depending on whether you want a liquor to be consumed as it is or used in a recipe. It is interesting to experiment with different aspects of the infusion method, including cold infusion, which opens the way to many uses in the kitchen. It goes without saying that I’m looking forward to tasting Bryan’s new creations!


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One cup for smelling, another for tasting

The use of an aroma cup offers a unique tasting experience. It allows you to focus on olfaction – the smell. As soon as it has been filled, the aroma cup is emptied into the tasting cup. The former retains the tea’s aromas thanks to its tall, narrow shape. You lift it to your nostrils and try to distinguish each note left by the liquor. A few minutes later, you taste the tea itself, by which time it will be at the perfect temperature.


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Teas that are good for the health

My work has changed a lot in the past 30 years. Before, I would select teas, and then we had to get them here as quickly as possible if they were Grands Crus – we called them “rare and ephemeral”. I would visit every farm, of course, but that’s where the work ended.
Today, our demands – and I’m talking about our own demands just as much as our customers’ – in terms of health, food safety and environmental respect, are so much higher. It’s no longer enough to find teas that are remarkable for their gastronomic qualities. They must also meet strict standards – happily, European standards are the strictest in the world. Food safety is better. Flavour and health have become inseparable, for which I’m grateful. Then it’s up to me to make sure you can taste these rare teas as soon after harvest as possible.


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Tea tasting with Manuel, “Meilleur Sommelier de France”

Named “Meilleur Sommelier de France” (“Best Sommelier of France”), Manuel Peyrondet is also interested in tea. He came to taste some premium teas with me, prepared at room temperature, meaning they were steeped for exactly an hour in water at 20°C. We talked about tea and food pairings, accompanied by Vanessa Zochetti, who was interviewing us for the next issue of Bruits de Palais. Tasting tea with a sommelier, especially Manuel, who used to be a sommelier at the Hotel George V, as well as the head sommelier at Taillevent, then at the Royal-Monceau, is a unique experience. In the world of fine food and drink, we often live in our bubble, focusing on our specialist product: wine for Manuel, tea for me. It’s really strange to move outside this world, to focus on how we respond to different textures, aromas and flavours. It leads to particularly enriching discussions.

And for those who don’t just drink tea, Manuel runs a wine club, which is an excellent way to build up a collection and attend tastings: www.chaisdoeuvre.com

(photo: Emmanuel Fradin)


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The desire to share my knowledge

Me sharing my knowledge

I spend a good deal of my time training people. Between tea tasting sessions, between trips abroad, I invite colleagues or students to join me at my tasting table. For me, it’s important to impart knowledge to my colleagues, and share with them what I’ve been lucky enough to learn on my distant adventures. Tastings are an opportunity for plenty of conversation, about the quality of the teas, and their organoleptic profiles (touch, aromas, flavours). We talk about how the different sensations interact and complement one another. And because I’m lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the places where tea is produced, the discussion moves on to the broader subject of how teas are made, and to the many aspects of the incredible world and culture of tea.


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The author

François-Xavier Delmas is a passionate globetrotter. He’s been touring the world’s tea plantations for more than 20 years in search of the finest teas. As the founder of Le Palais des Thés, he believes that travelling is all about discovering world cultures. From Darjeeling to Shizuoka, from Taiwan to the Golden Triangle, he invites you to follow his trips as well as share his experiences and emotions.

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