Thursday, June 9, 2016

imbue. Dessert Edition

Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest

I’ve always prided myself on knowing a little bit of everything, but I absolutely love meeting and getting to know people who are passionate and know everything about something. Fortunately being interested in food and all that good stuff leads me to meeting these kinds of people.

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With Melbourne’s rich coffee culture, although almost everyone I know can geek out over coffee and be a connoisseur in their own right, I don’t have that many people to really get excited about tea over. Until I met Cheryl. 

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Engineer by day, tea fanatic all her life and now a certified tea master as well. She’s taken that passion to start a her own additional business (because she’s clearly not busy enough already), Flag & Spear Tea Hunters, where she educates both the consumer and the industry about everything tea, and especially single origin tea. Definitely wished I could have been at her cupping session with Nieuw Amsterdam where they were matching tea and spirits (how fun would that be?!)

In order to get her tea master certification, she had assignments which included matching tea with food. While chatting to her good friend Rebekah one night, with a flair for cooking (and a boutique catering business, In the Art of Entertaining), Cheryl asked if Rebekah would help create a menu around some teas and whilst doing homework, came up with the idea of not just doing it theoretically, but making it reality. 

I unfortunately missed the first imbue. event, where canapés were matched with tea, but at least I made it to the second one, imbue: Dessert Edition. Tea. Dessert. Two of my favourite things? What’s absolutely not to love?

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Held at The Assembly Rooms, Cheryl and Rebekah pulled out all stops to create an absolutely stunning setting.

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We were greeted with tall flutes filled with a lovely bubbly beverage. But lo and behold, when Cheryl says she’s out to challenge our perception of tea, she’s doing it very well! There was no champagne or sparkling wine to be had, instead we were drinking a stunning Indonesian Silver Needles tea, that was cold brewed and lightly carbonated. A little trick or treat, but what a treat this was. So light, delicate and floral, I was immediately taken by the beautiful jasmine flower aroma and definitely tilted my glass for more when the bottles came around!

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Our first nibble for the session was a board of Langres washed-rind cheese, tamari roasted Brazil nuts and cold smoked Croation pork neck, paired with a stunning Honey Oolong tea from Taiwan. Although I loved the tea in itself, which was floral yet comforting with toasty notes, it was fascinating having it with the food as well, the tamari roasted nuts accentuating the toasty flavours. The Langres washed-rind cheese is one of the most delicious things ever as well.

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Although I usually love comforting and rich desserts, I do like it when my decisions are prescribed for me, as I otherwise would not usually choose to try things like the botanical gelee with lemongrass, coriander, ginger and edible flowers. Wow. Stunning and absolutely fascinating in flavours, the ginger and coriander really giving a huge punch of flavour; like South East Asia on a plate. However, pair it with the Woojeon green tea from Korea, with flavours like wet spinach and fresh cut grass through it, and it takes the aggressive edge off the coriander and makes the dish even more aromatic. 

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The malted pannacotta with mango, apricot, spiced sticky red rice and coconut is one of my favourite dishes. So cute, the mango and apricot panacea is kind of ‘the tea’ and the cubed sticky red rice coated in coconut is the cube of ‘sugar’. Together, it’s a very modern take on familiar South East Asian flavours again, mango sticky rice anyone? This dish was paired with a Himalayan Snow Bud white tea from Nepal. It’s an incredibly rare tea, grown 2200m above sea level at one of the highest tea estates in the world. 

Since you don’t get many insects at that altitude, there are no pesticides used in the tea, so the resulting tea is very pure, with beautiful treacle, honeysuckle and melon flavours through it. Sweet, floral but with a little zestier end. Loved this tea. 

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A fennel and mint chai granita, made with the Original Chai Co’s chai, is something I want a bigger serve of, all through summer. I forget that fennel does work so well with chai, and gives it a cooling affect, rather than a warm and toasty one like traditional Masala chai does. 

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Although the other desserts were great so far, I couldn’t help but be excited for the black forest cup, with chocolate, cherry and hazelnut, and it definitely delivered. Rebekah had actually planned this menu many, many months ago, and was supposed to originally run in February when cherry season was still abundant. But once the change in date occurred, she quickly went and bought the remaining best of season and preserved them all…just for this event! The cherries were beautiful, slightly alcoholic and juicy, gorgeously complimenting a delectably and insanely rich chocolate cake and ganache. Heaven. 

This was paired with a Da Hong Pao oolong tea from China (our biggest tea producer in the world, unsurprisingly), that was lovely and rich, with chocolate, mahogany, toast and date flavours. There’s a great story that goes with this tea, that the mother of an emperor was cured of an illness with this tea, so to show his thanks, the emperor sent big red robes (Da Hong Pao in Chinese funnily enough) to clothe the tea bushes. Apparently 6 of those original bushes still survive today…although our tea was not from one of those bushes (otherwise the event would have been much more expensive!) 

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To finish, a very delicate plate of petite fours, all with a different tea flavouring. A hojicha cheesecake, meringue kisses with Matcha ganache and my absolute favourite, the genmaicha marshmallow which just hit you with those big roasted rice flavours and had me desperate for more. Nearly paid another table for some more. Really!

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Although none of teas previously had been served with milk, for our last tea, Cheryl gave us the option, with the Kenilworth Estate BOP black tea from Sri Lanka. After all the delicate and aromatic teas, this was very hearty, yet sweet, with malty notes and went very well with milk. 

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What I really loved about the event, is how much care and thought Rebekah and Cheryl put into the whole afternoon. I’ve done dessert degustations where I’ve felt deliriously sick afterwards, but starting with a savoury nibble, and switching between light and refreshing dishes to richer and sweeter, meant that I thoroughly enjoyed myself, didn’t die from a sugar rush and felt very satiated and content by the time I left. I also loved all the story telling from the girls, and learning the stories behind the teas, and also their ideas. 

Cheryl and Rebekah are full of ideas, there’s been speculation of a breakfast and tea degustation (which I will surely be the first to sign up for) and there's a roast and tea match at Porcelain Tea Parlour coming up on July the 3rd! Make sure to check out the Flag & Spear website to keep up to date with everything that’s happening…you’ll probably bump into me at the next do! 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for such a wonderful review Ashley! Glad you enjoyed the event! x