Tea Blending at L'Espalier
I had a great time creating my own blend of tea yesterday at L'Espalier. Cynthia Gold, the brilliant tea sommelier at L'Espalier, set up five main tea bases: Dragonwell Green, Darjeeling, Keemun, Lapsang Souchong, and Honey Bush. She set up multiple smaller bowls for flavor accents, allowing us to mix in red currant, licorice root, orange peel, lavendar flowers, Earl Grey tea, cinnamon bark, mixed berries, Egyptian Chamomile, mixed mints, cacao shells, coconut, pea flowers, whole clove, and whole fennel. I set about working on creating an Earl Grey-ish tea, while my tea testing partner, Laura, got to work creating a blue-green tea with lavender. To help in our planning, we ordered a pair of Jack Rose cocktails.
They quickly brought out the sandwiches and desserts to pair with our tea creations. The sandwiches included watercress cream cheese cucumber sandwiches on lemon bread, quiche with wild foraged mushrooms, smoked salmon and poppy cream cheese on dill bread, roasted chicken and almond salad on wheat bread, and lobster profiterole with lime aioli. It's hard to pick a favorite, so I'll just say that the smoked salmon and the lobster were particularly awesome. I really loved the extra little gouda puff they included, as well!
As we tested through different tea blends, we made our way towards all of the dessert treats: lemon poppyseed muffins, blueberry scones with clotted cream, honey, and strawberry rhubarb jam, yuzu macarons, coconut cake with cranberry-cherry jam, basil financier with radish panna cotta, and chocolate tartlets with fresh strawberry.
Around this time I settled on a recipe for my signature tea blend, Early Grey. I had first tried a Darjeeling base with Earl Grey tea, orange peel, mixed berries, and coconut, but it was too far from the traditional Earl Grey. I tried the Darjeeling base again, with Earl Grey tea, orange peel, and red currant, which was closer to what I was going for, but didn't have a pleasant finish. The third time was truly the charm as I settled on a recipe: the Darjeeling base with Earl Grey tea, orange peel, and lavender.
As we began to enjoy our official signature blends, they brought out our cheese plate. We began with Kunik, a cow and goat's milk triple cream cheese from Nettle Meadow Farm in Warrensburg, New York, then moved onto Midnight Moon, a goat's milk cheese from Cypress Grove Dairy in Humboldt County, California. Cabot Cloth-bound Cheddar, a cow's milk cheese from a collaboration between Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, was up next. I've always adored Cabot Clothbound because it was my introduction into artisan cheeses. We stayed in Vermont, in terms of cheese, for Oma, a yummy washed rind cheese from the Von Trapp Farmstead in Waitsfield, Vermont. With only two cheeses left to go, we were treated to Verano, a sheep's milk cheese from Vermont Shepherd in Putney, Vermont, and Bluebird, a dense cow's milk blue cheese from Grey Barn Farm in Chilmark, Massachusetts.