Just before the summer solstice [on June 20], The Gardener’s Cottage restaurant in Edinburgh joins forces with tea sommelier Erica Moore, of the capital’s eteaket leaf tea store, to host a sell-out £65 a head bespoke feast where seven courses are matched with seven different brews at varying temperatures from cold, through ambient and hot. Each drink is designed to complement the flavours of the food without overpowering them – or the diners.
A canapé selection of cured gurnard, fermented carrot puree with tulip leaves and a lovage broth will be served with Isle of Harris gin tea flavoured with juniper and sugar kelp from the Outer Hebrides; an asparagus, quail egg, nettle chip and whipped goat cheese starter will accompany a Gyokuro Japananese green tea; Scottish lobster, tomato essence and large bittercress will be taken with Yellow Oolong (see below - sorry but most of the lobster had been consumed). A soft cheese from Dunlop dairy with rhubarb gel and pickled apple will be presented with a cold Orange Sunday tea; and a dessert of fresh strawberries, milk pannacotta and honeycomb with Strawberry and Cream tea. (Continues after photo break.)
The piece de resistance, however, is a dish of organic beef from Perthshire with salted baked potatoes, mustard leaves and flowers and mushroom dust, which will be served with eteaket’s new whisky barrel aged black tea. A blend of leaves from Assam, Ceylon and Fujian, it has been aged in Tomatin whisky barrels and is believed to be the first tea to be ‘distilled’ in Europe.
Research suggests that one in five younger adults in the UK are refraining from drinking alcohol for a variety of reasons including health, religious belief, because it’s frowned on at work – or simply because they’re the designated driver for the evening. This means chefs and restaurateurs are looking for innovative ways to keep their tastebuds tantalised without intoxicating them.
“Our customers include health-conscious gym bunnies, pregnant woman and young parents, high-powered professionals and clean eaters who enjoy our innovative menus but prefer not to drink alcohol and find diet cola and mineral water just doesn’t do it,” said chef Brandon Murch.
“Pairing tea with food is a burgeoning trend in high-end restaurants in London and Paris. Although it’s new in Scotland we think it’s the way forward for many of our customers. This has been a fantastic journey for us and has given us the freedom to experiment with flavours a bit more. Everything on our tea pairing menu is new.
“Wine tasting menus are great, but they can leave you feeling a bit ragged in the morning. People don’t want to drink that much during the working week or when they have the gym first thing in the morning. As a chef this is interesting because it’s something new and exciting.”
For tea expert and former lawyer Erica Moore, pairing food with tea can help introduce more Scots to different types of tea.
“After all, tea is part of Scotland’s DNA,” she said. “Scotland has such a rich history of tea and it’s good that through this menu we’re using new teas with a modern Scottish twist, such as Harris gin, Tomatin whisky, and seabuckthorn. We’re already looking at fermented teas to marry with modern food trends.”
Ceylon’s first tea estate was established by a Scot, and grocer Thomas Lipton of Glasgow made it accessible to all; the Cutty Sark clipper was built on the river Clyde at Dumbarton; Scots were dominant in all ranks of the East India Company, and in the 19th century Glasgow was one of the largest receivers of tea from China – hence the plethora of tea warehouses around the Broomlielaw.
“This has been amazing,” added Ms Moore. “When I saw the menu in print I had an idea of what could go with each dish but because it has so many different flavour nuances, a lot of my choices changed when I tasted it. Once I hit on the right one, I knew there was no going back.”
* This exclusive article first appeared in The Herald.