It goes without saying (almost) that tea is big business in Asia, but which teas are trending and what, if anything, is new? Vicki Williams finds out.
According to Tony Dick, director of Tea Concepts, much is going on in the Chinese tea world.
“Chinese tea companies continue to innovate both in tea types and packaging, such as white teas. Known for being high in anti-oxidants, but its light flavour has meant that it is not always a popular choice, but now aged white teas are becoming fashionable to drink in China and this is also spreading into Asia.”
Aged white teas, which Tea Concepts can provide, have a rounder, fuller flavour and can be paired with food. “It is generating a lot of interest,” Dick says.
Tea Concepts, supplies a number of premium tea brands – including organic – and counts high-end and Michelin-starred restaurants as customers.
“Our strength is providing the right tea, that is, providing tea that allows the design of the tea service to match the style of the individual restaurant.”
Vivian Mak, founder and director of bespoke high-end Chinese tea company, MingCha says that jasmine tea is still a top seller throughout Asia.
“Our Jasmine Blossoms remains the best seller. Opening like a flower when brewed, it is visually stunning, and scented six times with jasmine flowers, making it stand out from others.”
Another noticeable trend is the rise of tea infused drinks, both alcoholic and non.
“There are more bars and lounges using tea in cocktails,” Mak points out. “The varied tea aromas and flavours contribute nice details to cocktails. We have been working with hotel mixologists to create MingCha tea cocktails, for example at the Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila.”
The Peninsula Hong Kong is already in on the act. “Tea is definitely en vogue these days, particularly herbal tea blends,” says Florian Trento, group executive chef, The Peninsula Hotels.
“We are working on iced tea mixes, but the trend is always fluctuating. People are more adventurous and are willing to try different flavours now.”
The hotel serves three distinct tea ranges – Peninsula teas (a bespoke tea selection from India, including organic), Chinese teas from China, and organic herbal teas from Switzerland – with almost 50 choices across the three ranges.
Trento says, “When serving an own tea blend, you can really specify what you want and do your own mix. Especially our own afternoon tea, we can control the quality and flavour in a pre-set environment.”
Reflecting the tea-in-fashion sentiment is the rebranding of hotel favourite Tea Forté, available from Tea Concepts.
“Tea Forté spent 2016 rebranding, with a new logo and enhanced design. These teas are particularly popular among hotels and restaurants due to their distinctive design and beautiful accessories.
“In the age of Instagram where the camera eats/drinks first, these are the perfect teas to pile up the likes on social media,” says Dick.
He adds, that seasonal teas are in growing demand, too.
“As we approach winter in the northern hemisphere, our hospitality clients are looking to match seasonal menus with complementary seasonal flavours, such as baked apple Rooibos and winter chai.”