Like the third wave coffee movement, tea makers here might be experiencing a renewed appreciation for smaller, boutique labels. Gone are the days where a few larger, more well-known brands dominate the market.
These days, the appeal comes from meaningful collaborations for an authentic Chinese tea cocktail experience or a tea masterclass. Here are three places where you can get a customised brew.
Chuan By Nutmeg
New craft cocktail bar Chuan By Nutmeg on the 60th floor of UOB Plaza, is a new partnership between award-winning cocktail bar Nutmeg & Clove and fine dining Chinese restaurant, Si Chuan Dou Hua. The brainchild of founder Colin Chia that’s led by head bartender Joshua Pang, this intimate 30-seater showcases premium tea-infused cocktails matched with modern Sichuan and Cantonese bar bites.
The Tea Collector, the first series of Chuan By Nutmeg’s beverage menu, pays homage to Si Chuan Dou Hua’s collection of premium Chinese teas. The restaurant has over 30 varieties of fine teas for the bartenders to experiment with to fuse the art of mixology with tea. Under the guidance of Si Chuan Dou Hua’s tea masters, the team went through extensive sessions of tastings to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the tea’s flavour profiles.
Chia says, “As this is the first time that we are introducing a cocktail programme revolving around teas, we chose to work with flavours that Singaporeans were familiar with such as jasmine tea, chrysanthemum tea, pu’erh and tie guan yin.”
(Related: Why you should be drinking more tea)
The tea tasting sessions also included a crash course on the best way to brew Chinese tea noting the proportion of water to tea leaves and water temperature. He continues, “We learned that brewing tea at varying temperatures changes its aroma and taste, so we poured a lot of time and effort into extracting the right flavour that we wanted. For example, to match the intensity of a highball, we brew tie guan yin at high temperatures to extract its full flavour while we only steep chrysanthemum flowers in a warm bath for it to gently release its aroma.”
When conceptualising the drinks, balance was a key factor. “It was important to marry the teas with the right ingredients so that we do not overpower its delicate notes. Rather, we chose ingredients that complement or enhance the tea’s flavour. In the Old Treasure Fashioned, we pair the rich and intense Eight Treasures Tea with slightly sweet and nutty coconut. In the LS-D, the smokiness of the Lapsang Souchong is balanced with the sweetness from goji berries,” he adds.
(Related: Your next investment might be a teapot)
One of the most surprising matches was with the deeply flavoured tie guan yin. “Known to be an intense black tea with deep flavours, we didn’t think that it would be easy to work with. In the end, we managed to make it into the most delicious cordial which was a perfect match with the Haku Vodka in our Goddess Highball. It is by far the most popular cocktail in our menu now,” says Chia. The team also had to be very careful to not over-extract the tea as tie guan yin can be very bitter. The libation also includes grapefruit bitters and London Essence soda water.
To pair with the drinks, Sichuan and Cantonese bar bites are created by Si Chuan Dou Hua’s executive Cantonese chef Hoo Chee Keong. Think: oyster omelette with XO sauce, stir-fried diced beef with garlic, crispy pork belly with fermented beans, and silky fine beancurd with wolfberries. To further elevate the experience for guests, a Martini Tableside service will be introduced by the end of October, followed by a Whiskey Trolley at a later date.
80 Raffles Place, 60-01 UOB Plaza, Singapore 048624.
Pryce Tea for Far East Hospitality
Lim Lam Thye started in 1918 as a provision shop. The family-run business gradually moved into tea trading, supplying teas to Chinese restaurants, and subsequently started manufacturing teas. Lim Tian Peng, the fourth generation steward in this tea business, still runs the company with his family members.
In 2013, he created Pryce Tea whose range of teas have won multiple UK Great Taste Awards over the last few years. “When it comes to food services, we usually supply Chinese teas. So we were surprised when clients asked if we could create some other teas for them,” he says, adding that each tea has to be unique and tell a story.
The tea maker works with Far East Hospitality and their portfolio of hotels to create custom tea blends suited to each property. One of the first collaborations was with The Outpost Hotel Sentosa.
Lim created two non-caffeinated teas: Palawan Dawn and Siloso Night, which can be used to prepare mocktails and cocktails. This year, Pryce Tea is also involved with the hospitality group’s newest property Oasia Resort Sentosa. He says that when creating the signature teas, special care was taken to ensure that they were complementary to the hotel’s overall brand and wellness experience.
“The teas use a combination of traditional Asian remedies and familiar modern-day herbs to evoke different moods tailored to the three wellness pillars of the brand. Over and above homeopathic properties like anti-inflammatory, relieving sinus or alleviating bloating, Thé Refresh, Thé Recharge and Thé Refuel make excellent teas to complement the gamut of wellness goals and itineraries guests may have during their stay with Oasia Resort Sentosa.”
He shares, “Thé Refresh uses a Taiwanese white tea with lemon verbena and peppermint to create a refreshing blend. Thé Recharge features an organic green rooibos with Thai lemongrass and galangal ginger to recharge the body with bright notes of citrus. Thé Refuel contains Japanese hojicha with lavender and eucalyptus to reveal warm woody notes to soothe away tensions.”
The hotel also has a Tea Appreciation Workshop specially curated by Pryce Tea for their Wellness Hour. “The workshop is designed for guests to connect with their senses while we bring them through tasting of the three signature teas. At the end of the workshop, there is a tea tailoring time where guests can make use of ingredients provided to create their own wellness blend.”
Meanwhile, Pryce Tea has also come up with a tea-based cocktail menu for The Barracks Hotel which will be available in The Living Room for the end-of-year season. The cocktail menu was fully crafted by Lim to deliver a drinking experience “inspired by the romantic and colonial charm of The Barracks Hotel”.
Two of the tea-based cocktail highlights in the menu features The Barracks Hotel signature tea: 1904, which has just won a U.K. Great Taste Award 2021. The ‘1904 Manhattan’ is made with this tea alongside Kentucky bourbon and dark rum, and the ‘1904 Spritz’ features this same tea blend alongside gin, and grapefruit juice. By the end of the year, Pryce Tea will also be the tea partner of AMOY Hotel, also under the Far East Hospitality Group, as well as providing wedding favours and banquets as part of The Ritz-Carlton Singapore.
While it hasn’t always been the case that established hotels look for boutique tea makers to work with, he’s glad that things are changing. He says, “We are always heartened and grateful for each opportunity that allows us to communicate experiences and brand emotions with tea. It is a process we enjoy thoroughly and are blessed to have brewed those experiences into fruition.”
In line with its 10th anniversary, Fat Cow has specially rolled out three exclusive custom loose-leaf tea blends: Fat Cow Original, Roku, and Yuzu-Orange Pu’erh. Besides the restaurant’s exclusive sake (Fat Cow Daiginjo Label), the team commissioned A.Muse Projects to create an exclusive range of beverages to complement their wagyu beef options.
The Fat Cow Original, which has a floral, citrusy and fruity taste, is a light white tea blended with bitter orange and natural botanicals. The Roku comprises a green tea base mixed with juniper berries, cardamom, lemon peel, coriander and black pepper for a hint of spiciness. And the Yuzu-Orange Pu’erh has a confectionery-like chocolatey and sweet yuzu-orange taste. This blend contains a base of premium quality pu’erh leaves, brightened with yuzu peel bites, lemon peel and bitter orange.
Fat Cow’s spokesperson says, “We picked three different tea blends as we felt their flavour profiles were reminiscent of our top three drinks – The Fat Cow Sake, She’s So Unusual (Shiso-infused Roku Gin) and Yuzu Fizz (Yuzu Umeshu, lemon and yuzu juice shaken with a touch of yuzu umeshu and champagne). They allow guests to have very different experiences when drunk alone or with their meal.”
According to the team, the tea leaves and botanicals are sourced from all over the world. For example, the pu’erh and white tea leaves are from China and the juniper berries are from Macedonia.
Guests who order the celebratory 10th anniversary omakase special (available for dinner from 1 November to 31 December) will be served a complimentary welcome tea. They can also order these special teas by the cup. Fat Cow will retail the teas in specially designed air-tight containers in December.