Introduction to tea, tea tasting, tea pairing, cooking with tea Individuals and professionals
I recently discovered Palais des Thés Tea School in New York, well hidden in the heart of Soho. I had an amazing tea tasting experience in their private tasting studio.
About Palais des Thés Palais des Thés was founded in Paris in 1986 by Francois-Xavier Delmas. At that time the offer for quality teas was extremely limited in France. He decided he would introduce French people to the best teas, sourcing them directly from the countries of origin. Today, Palais des Thés remains 100% independent and has about 80 stores around the world, mostly in Europe. Palais des Thés has been present in the US since 2011. You can find their teas on their website or at the stores or website of gourmet food retailers and department stores like Dean and Deluca, Le District, Saks or Nordstrom to name a few. You can also enjoy them at premium hotels, restaurants, cafés and bakeries like The Plaza Hotel, The Peninsula, the St Regis or Dominique Ansel Bakery in NYC.
About Palais des Thés Tea School Palais des Thés Tea School is both for individuals and professionals. For the professionals, Palais des Thés offers training for chefs, culinary students and beverage professionals. These professionals can either go to the school or a tea sommelier can go to their premises and train them. Depending on what they are looking for, they will more particularly focus on tea tasting, tea pairing or the culinary uses of tea. For the individuals Palais des Thé offers intimate tea classes as well as private tastings and events. Individuals can either register on Palais des Thés’ website for one of their classes like for example “Introduction to tea and tea tasting” or “Introduction to Matcha”, or can call to schedule a bespoke private tasting or event. In both cases you will explore the art of tea tasting and learn about all the necessary elements to enjoy a full sensory experience. You will also learn a lot about the teas themselves, from production to taste and pairing.
My experience I was at Palais des Thés Tea School for a private tea tasting led by tea sommelier Aurélie Bessière who also happens to be the founder and CEO of Palais des Thés in the US. I am a huge tea drinker but had never had the occasion of experiencing an actual tea tasting with a professional except for a traditional tea ceremony in Tokyo which I loved but didn’t come with any explanation. The experience I had at Palais des Thés was an introduction to tea and the art of tea tasting. We tasted and compared 4 different teas: one Green tea from Japan, one Oolong tea from Taïwan, one Black tea from Yunnan, China and one herbal tea called Tropical Garden. To start with, Aurélie explained the basis to enjoy the many pleasures of tea: the tea must be prepared carefully, respecting the water temperature and brewing time which are different for each kind of tea, and of course the quantity of tea (usually 0.07oz of tea leaves for 4floz water). An incorrect temperature or brewing time can destroy or alter the taste of the tea. For example, an Oolong can be brewed for a long time while a Japanese tea should never be brewed longer than 2 minutes. Then we started with the tea tasting, comparing the 4 teas Aurélie had selected. Firstly, we looked and smelled the dry leaves, then compared the smell of the infused leaves, the different colors of the teas and the different tastes. With each step of a tea tasting, the idea is to put into words what you smell, observe, taste and feel and compare it with something familiar. For example the Japanese green tea smelled like wet grass with a hint of sea salt reminiscent of seaweed and the ocean breeze, while the Oolong smelled more like young green wood and white flowers. The smell of the black tea reminded me of wet straw, wet leather and thick honey while the tropical herbal tea was an explosion of tropical fruits and spices. Aurélie told the story of each tea, where it comes from, how it is produced, and also how you could pair this tea with food or use it in cooking or baking. The whole experience felt like a journey into the world of tea! I learnt more about tea than I never thought I would and came back totally passionate about it, knowing that tea would never taste the same after this... ~Nathalie, April 2018