Kyle Whittington is a modern tea merchant. He imports the finest of teas and he educates and amuses his audience. You could say he teases with teas. Although the custom of drinking this beverage dates back thousands of years in China, it was not until the 17th century that it first appeared in England. It has been overshadowed by coffee but it’s now enjoying a revival.
Kyle is becoming something of a tea institution. His food pairing events are unique and popular. Kyle is offering an engaging experience appealing to those who want to learn more. There are no spittoons or technical discussions of chemical interactions, although Kyle is an encyclopaedia of leafy facts. His evenings are light, informative and deliciously garnished.
This particular evening found us sipping leaves from China: The Noodle House blend of White Peony (Bai Mu Dan) accompanied by Vegetable Spring Roll. This very light beverage was a good choice with the robust soy sauce. The Noodle House blend of Lime Green followed, accompanied by Wasabi Prawns. This is a delicate but striking leaf that also works as a cold infusion. Kyle teaches brewing techniques and even how to make the drink using cold water.
Lapsang Souchong from the Canton Tea Company served with Chargrilled King Prawns was a triumph. The smokiness of the tea complemented the rich buttery seafood. The Noodle House blend of Jasmine Star offered with Javanese Nasi Goreng was a fragrant marriage and demonstrated the difference between quality jasmine and that which we likely consume at our local Chinese restaurant. Kyle described the process of producing these remarkable leaves.
The Noodle House blend of Posh Earl Grey comes from Sri Lanka and accompanied Sweet and Sour Crispy Chicken. I had assumed that all Earl Grey was posh but this particular blend was a cut above others. It was aromatic with vibrant notes of bergamot, the key additive which gives this tea its instantly recognisable characteristics. Although the country of origin is Sri Lanka the tea is still described as Ceylon tea, referring to the pre-independence name for the island.
Future dates for The Noodle House Tea and Asian food pairings are the first Tuesday of the month starting with 3rd March, 7th April, 5th May, 2nd June.
Whittington’s Tea Emporium has a delightful liaison with The Noodle House every month, but there is another intriguing event each month and that finds Kyle pairing cheese with tea. It seems an unlikely partnership but I have heard that the combination is astounding with not only tea’s flavour palate working with the lactic saltiness of cheese, but also the heat of the tea adding another dimension.
Tea and Cheese is held in a small cheese shop in Greenwich. That might seem an unlikely neighbourhood for an association with tea but in fact there is a strong link. In the early 1800s ships carrying leaves from the Far East to Britain could take over a year to return with their valuable cargo. When the East India Company was given the monopoly in 1832, they had to cut the time of these voyages. They used Clippers which could reach nearly 18 knots. The most famous of these clipper ships was the Cutty Sark, built in 1868 and now on show at Greenwich.
Cheese pairing in Greenwich is offered on every last Tuesday of the month: 24th February, 31st March, 27th April and 19th May.
There will also be another venue: Cheese pairing in Notting Hill on Wednesday 11th February, with more dates to follow.
Drinks review by Chrissie Walker © 2018