If the amount of messages I receive in my inbox and on social asking for recommendations for afternoon tea are anything to go by, then taking afternoon tea must be one of the most longed for activities when visiting the United Kingdom.
And goodness as a country we rise to that expectation: every hotel and, often, pub, museum restaurant, art gallery, and tourist attraction has cottoned on that desire, having realised that providing a selection of sandwiches, a few warm scones and some pretty cakes is a failsafe way to get those lovely free-spending tourist bottoms on seats.
But there are afternoon teas, and there are afternoon teas. From a dry scone studded with shards of old raisins and a plastic pat of butter accompanying tea so strong you could stand a spoon up in it from a train buffet, to the heights of The Ritz’s faultless afternoon tea service, there is something for every palette, every theme, and every wallet.
I rather enjoyed my cakes served in a suitcase at St Pancras’ Searcy’s Champagne Bar last summer, and little beats Claridge’s proper traditional tea. But, given that I have now taken traditional teas all over London, I do now like my tea with a twist.
In this case, I am talking about Harrods’ Chinese New Year 2020 tea which has been inspired by the Chinese game of Mahjong. The Lucky Set Afternoon Tea includes a beautiful patisserie selection inspired by Chinese good luck symbols, and is a collaboration with China’s premium baijiu white spirit, Fenjiu.
This afternoon tea at Harrods to celebrate Chinese Lunar New Year 2020 was a press invitation from Fenjiu.
(All current paid projects and commercial partners are always fully disclosed.)
Baijiu was new to me: it is an ancient grain-based Chinese white distilled spirit, which is usually distilled from fermented sorghum. It may not be widely known here in the United Kingdom, but Chinese baijiu accounts for 54% of the global value of spirits sales, even though 99% of the 18 billion litres per year produced in China’s 12,000 baijiu distilleries is sold within China.
Fenjiu is the oldest Chinese baijiu, made from a 6,000-year-old recipe, and originating in Fenyang city, Shanxi province, Northern China, and is made from organic sorghum, and water taken directly from the Gouzhuang spring. Blended according to grade after distillation, it is matured for between 1 and 50 years in ceramic jars.
Wealth and Fortune (above), a bespoke Harrods Signature Fenjiu Cocktail, is made with Fenjiu Bamboo 5- Year-Old, Longjing tea cordial, white wine, Italicus bergamot liqueur, pear liqueur and lemon juice is offered as an aperitif.
A selection of sandwiches including Faroe Islands smoked salmon and beetroot cream cheese, salt beef and Gruyère cheese and wholegrain mustard mayonnaise and roast Gressingham duck, hoisin sauce and spring onions
The tea also includes these wonderful bespoke chocolates in the design of Mahjong tiles, containing a lime and gunpowder tea ganache.
There is also a selection of warm fruit and plain scones accompanied by clotted cream, Harrods apricot jam infused with Fenjiu, and Harrods strawberry jam. The tea ends with a Digestif of Fenjiu Blue Flower 30-year-old.
The Lucky Set Afternoon Tea with Fenjiu will be available from 11th January until 16th February 2020, at the Harrods Tea Rooms situated on the 4th Floor of the department store. Customers are invited to pre-book at: +44 (0)20 7225 6800 / firstname.lastname@example.org