Tea Pairing on Yahoo Singapore

Another tea-related article that I did for Makansutra/Yahoo Singapore.

I’m so happy to have found a Chinese restaurant that respects tea as much as their food in Singapore (see Tian Fu Tea Room)!

The full article can be found here.

A Tea Feast

Recently, I received a lunch invitation from the people at BP de Silva. While they are best known as jewellers, they also own a variety of businesses, including Clipper Tea. This tea label isn’t sold in supermarkets, but you will find it in quite a number of restaurants, cafes and hotels in Singapore.

In any case, we met for lunch at La Villa (also owned by BP de Silva), an Italian restaurant which occupies what was once River Valley Primary School’s canteen. Love the white-washed interiors, made all the more dreamy on a rainy afternoon.

So of course, it comes as no surprise that Clipper tea is served at La Villa. But wait – there are also a couple of food items in the menu that feature tea in it! I decide to go the whole hog and get a full-fledged tea feast.

The first course is an Earl Grey consommé with scallops, prawns, cod fish and julienne vegetables. It’s a mild, soothing appetizer with a hint of citrus zing. Somehow, there’s a sort of herbal taste to this which is slightly reminiscent of bak kut teh.

Next up: Oven-roasted sea bass with pan-seared potatoes, spinach and green tea infusion. This is one beautifully-cooked fish – crispy on the outside and soft and flaky in the inside. It’s made all the more delectable by the green tea infusion, which I’m told is actually made from matcha powder hence the sweet, vegetal creaminess.

For dessert, I have a passionfruit tea panna cotta. I love this! It’s light and has this beautiful, smooth texture (when it’s served to you, it wobbles a lot – I now take that as a sure sign of a good panna cotta). My favourite bubble tea flavour used to be passionfruit black tea, so this was a little nostalgic for me. I also got to try a bit of their Tearamisu dessert, which is essentially Tiramisu but instead of soaking the savoiardi biscuits in coffee, they are soaked in Earl Grey syrup instead.

I never knew having tea in food could be so much fun. Even better when the entire lunch conversation is about tea too!

La Villa
341 River Valley Road
#01-03
Singapore 238372
Tel: 68365286
Web: http://www.lavilla.sg

T Ching Post – My First Chinese Teahouse

It seems that my childhood memories often seem more vivid than last week’s recollections. Read about my experience re-visiting my first Chinese teahouse here.

Teyvika: Two Men and Their Tea

James and Yuchang

The more I learn about tea, the more I appreciate the culture and philosophy behind drinking this beverage. At the same time however, I am made more aware of how traditional tea ceremonies are just so alien to the frantic, 21st century urban way of life, and this chasm is often hard a hard one to cross, especially when there are so many other funky drinks to get distracted by (artisanal coffee! bubble tea!).

This is why I am absolutely fascinated by this modern teahouse that’s just popped up in Singapore’s CBD a few months back. It’s called Teyvika, and it looks like a chirpy froyo outlet.

Happy colours

Do not be fooled by its fun interiors though! The two guys who set it up – James Wong and Ho Yuchang (see top pic) – are very serious about their tea (check out their selection below) and have even created a prototype “Vika Machine” that prepares tea based on Chinese tea ceremony brewing techniques. I had a mug of Gao Shan Cha oolong tea and was surprised at how delicate and sweet it tasted despite the “automated” preparation method.

I really do think it’s high time that Singapore gets an accessible”Starbucks” tea sort of place like this so more people find out what good quality tea that is stored and brewed properly tastes like. If you work around here, you know where to get a good cuppa!

Teyvika
97 Amoy Street, Singapore 069917
http://www.teyvika.com

Images courtesy of Teyvika Pte Ltd

Update: Do take note that Teyvika is no longer at Amoy Street – they are currently searching for a new cafe location so stay tuned!

Flower Power

While in Hong Kong, a friend living there recommended me to visit Fook Ming Tong(福茗堂) Tea Shop to pick up some flower teas. I sucked in my minor claustrophobia and jostled through crowds to visit their shop in ifc.

My friend told me to look for a patient, nurturing lady who would explain their products very nicely. However, when I got there, a rather terse, middle-aged guy told me that I was not allowed to take a photograph of the store (see illicit image above). The store experience was generally quite tense because he tailed me very closely, but would only give 3-word replies when I asked him about the products e.g. “good for stomach”, “smell the leaves”.

So I just stuck to my friend’s recommendation and got myself a packet of their Hangzhou Osmanthus. To be fair, stoic store guy gave me a useful tip with this purchase –  “drink with honey”.

Today, I just did that and it was quite lovely and therapeutic. When I opened the packet, I immediately sniffed out a lovely floral-citrusy-honeysuckle bouquet even before brewing  Do grab a pack of this when you are in Hong Kong – I only found out after I got back that there are Fook Ming Tong stores in the airport as well so you can conveniently go tea shopping just before you leave (doh!).

– Shop 3006, Podium Level 3, ifc Mall, Central, Hong Kong
– 7E143, Departure Hall, Passenger Terminal 1, Hong Kong International Airport

Please visit http://www.fookmingtong.com for more information and store locations.

Alone in the Crowd

It was a crowded Saturday afternoon and I found myself alone at Arteastiq, a tea cafe in Mandarin Gallery I’ve been wanting to check out for a while. I’d arranged to meet three old friends there, but they have a notorious habit of being late, so I went straight down to ordering a Genmaicha and winding down on my own. What I really like about Arteastiq (besides being really pretty, check out those birdcages!) is that even though it was crowded, there’s still this sense of space and privacy within each table. No such thing as accidental eavesdropping and even the chatty groups didn’t sound so thunderous as they might in other cafes.

There are times when I get really restless and ticked off if I have to wait around alone (punctuality has been pummelled into me by a mother-who-should-have-been-German) but this time, I was not. There have been times where I have been so annoyed with my three tardy friends that I would threaten to leave before they even got there. But that afternoon, I came to the conclusion there’s NOTHING I can do to speed up their arrival. They will simply arrive when they arrive, so help me God. In the meantime, I sipped my tea slowly, scribbled random thoughts and observations in my notebook, and wondered  if I should get a flowery teapot like that some day (see above).

In the end, the first friend came 30 minutes late, the 2nd friend came an hour late while the last friend 1.5 hours late. It actually worked out as I had a chance to catch up with the 30-minute-late friend one-on-one and I really appreciated that heart-to-heart conversation which I’d been hoping to have with her for the longest time.

The morale of the story: Drink tea to avoid getting unnecessarily agitated. Things will fall into place somehow.

Arteastiq
Mandarin Gallery, #04-14/15
333 Orchard Road, Singapore 238867
Tel: 6235 8370
Opens: 11:00 am-10:30 pm daily

Zheng He Tea House, Melaka

Owner Ms Pak Siew Yong

Hello, I’m in one of my favorite places in the world – Melaka! The food here is amazing – it tastes just like how Singaporean food used to taste back in the ’80s. However, there is only so much chendol, chicken rice balls and laksa I can stomach so yesterday afternoon, I went around looking for a tea place to chill out at.

Just a street away from the hustle and bustle of Jonker Walk is Zheng He Tea House, which is run by a friendly and smiley Ms Pak. It’s housed in this spacious, breezy shophouse and if you’d like to have a tasting session with Ms Pak, it just costs 20 ringgit!

Ms Pak serves you tea personally

I find it interesting that every tea person I meet has a very unique tea philosophy, so I enjoyed listening to Ms Pak’s ideas. For one, she doesn’t sell the more delicate green or white teas because she says they don’t keep well in tropical weather, and that it is against her principles to be selling things that “won’t taste as good as they should be”. She does have a wide range of black, oolong and fermented teas though, and I had a nice time sipping a Da Hong Pao from Wuyi mountains and a Dancong oolong from Chao Zhou.

She also talked about her collection of clay tea pots and how the remnant tea oil over time gives them a pretty shine. It’s kind of strange, but all her little pot stories reminded me of someone talking about how they got to know their best friends in school, and this infectious passion somehow persuaded me to get a Duan Ni white clay Yixing teapot to bring home.

Little Tea Girl, Jian Xi (Ms Pak's daughter)

All in all, it was a lovely rainy afternoon spent here. It’s a very relaxing place and not as formal/rigid as a “typical” Chinese tea house. It’s almost like visiting a friend’s home 🙂 Do drop by this place if you’re in Melaka – drinking tea here is also an ideal way to “cleanse” the tummy for more feasting!

Zheng He Tea House
No. 3 Jalan Kampong Kuli
75200 Melaka
Tel: 016-764 0588 

For more information, you can join their Facebook page here

p/s: It’s quite sad that I only seem to have the time to visit tea places when I’m NOT in Singapore. But I’m hoping to do my rounds in the Lion City in the coming year – there are all these tea spots I’ve been meaning to check out!

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