If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love brunch and I love tea. So, when IMBUE announced a brunch themed tea event was announced I instantly jumped on to it. IMBUE is the coming together of two very talented people: Cheryl of Flag and Spear tea hunters and Bek from In The Art of Entertaining.
On the day, we arrived a little bit early at the studio. It was a very mild Saturday morning perfect for standing around in alleyways and warming up with multiple rounds of tea.
Carbonated osmanthus tea with passionfruit puree was offered to us as we walked in. This was a pleasant start to the morning. The sparkling nature of the tea made it feel a little bit naughty like a morning tipple when it really wasn’t. Cheryl explained that she had carbonated the osmanthus tea with a syphon and had wanted to showcase the natural passionfruit taste of osmanthus tea with this little introduction.
Although I have drunken plenty of osmanthus tea in my life I have never really picked up on its passionfruit taste. Perhaps, because the osmanthus flower often accompanies other stronger tasting teas subduing the fruity essence. I look forward to trying to osmanthus flower in its more natural form in the future as I love passionfruit flavours.
After this little opener, our 5 courses of matched tea and drinks were due to start!
The Anji Bai green tea was the first tea course of the morning. Even though the Chinese alludes to this being a white tea, with the word bai (meaning white) it is actually a green tea. The story behind this tea is that there were legends of a beautiful tea with white tips, but for the longest time no one had been able to locate one of these rare plants. So it was thought to be just a fable. However, not too long ago, the legendary tea was discovered and propagated. Eventually, it made its way here into our hands to try. This tea was described as having a velvety mouthfeel. Indeed, it was incredibly smooth and I enjoyed the light fresh taste of the tea as an introduction to the rest of the morning.
Pumpkin dumplings with lime crème fraiche and micro coriander were bought out soon after the tea. I usually find Western dumplings far too doughy and uninspired but these pillowy and slightly sweet mouthfuls made me change my mind almost instantly. The micro coriander was the perfect touch to complete the bite.
Bircher Jar with pear puree peach and yoghurt panna cotta. This was probably my favourite dish of the day. The smooth panna cotta made an otherwise tasty muesli into something just a little bit luxe. Of course, it helps that I greatly enjoy breakfast panna cottas. Like the bircher jars, the tea was also served cold. The Guranse hand rolled floral black tea from Nepal was light and fruity. It complimented the smooth pear puree and peaches. The story behind this tea is of connections. Apparently, the emperor of China gifted the ruler of Nepal with tea trees. The ruler of Nepal was rather taken with this gift it seems and had the trees propagated everywhere.
Seeded toast with fig, rocket, gouda and Spanish jamon. Paired with the Formosa oriental beauty oolong tea. Formosa oriental beauty tea, otherwise known as dongfang metres is mandarin is a tea that I’m usually not all that fond of. Some of the oriental beauty tea I’ve tried tend to have a very strong smokey and nutty taste that can be astringent and does not take kindly to being overbrewed in the slightest. This iteration was much more smooth. The flavour was rich, and although rather than chocolatey it was very oaky.
The seeded toast was totally different to what I had imagined. Instead of bread, it was a thin crisp flatbread made out of seeds. The toast provided a contrast to the creamy cheese and fig. This was my favourite tea pairing of the event. I love tea and I love cheese. However, it had never occurred to me that they could come together so harmoniously.
Waffle Stack with scrambled eggs,, chorizo and chili flakes paired with Jin Xuan Milk Oolong. This Oolong, also from Taiwan was grown in the Alishan region. Although this was also an oolong it tasted totally different to the Oriental Beauty, which is admittedly very unique. This was much more like the oolongs that my parents and grandparents drink. This was much lighter in flavour and sightly vegetal tasting.
The gorgeous waffle stack was incredibly difficult to eat cocktail style. However, it proved to be completely worth it. Soft and fluffy scrambled eggs were sandwiched between the savoury waffles. The chilli flakes provided a delightful little kick to the whole thing.
Blueberry French Toast Muffins with goats cheese. This was another bite that was incredibly difficult to eat cocktail style as the blueberry sauce went almost everywhere when I attempted to eat it. The cross of French toast and muffin was a novel combination of two beloved brunch options. The crunchy toast went well with the soft muffin. However, everything was a bit heavy on the goat’s cheese. Perhaps because I’m not all that fond of goats cheese I pushed some of it to the side for a lighter tasting end to the morning.
This was paired with Gold Label Black Tea from Yunnnan village. The Gold Label Black Tea is a premium tea from wild camelia synthesis trees which, unlike the farmed varieties are many metres tall. The leaves are harvested via ladder and only picked for a very short season. As a result, the tea is incredibly prized and expensive. I felt privileged to be able to taste it at this event. It’s difficult to accurately describe what this tasted like. It was both slightly sweet and salty.
My only minor quibble about the event is that it wasn’t was polished as it could have been. Some people were left waiting for food long after others had already finished. The timing of everything sometimes felt a little bit harried as I saw several people leaving to move their cars before hopping back inside hoping that they hadn’t missed anything. It would have been nice to have had a rough guideline of how long the event would take just so that we would all be a little bit more abreast of what was going on behind the scenes.
Although I love drinking tea I can’t say that I’m the most educated about it. I particularly enjoyed how this brunch event was focused on Asian teas. The usual brunch line up of herbals, earl greys and English breakfasts were pleasantly nowhere in sight. Even though I have tried many of the teas that were offered on the day before, I came away with a new sense of understanding for them. As rich as Melbourne’s coffee scene is, I often feel that we are lacking in other hot beverages. Although some specialty chocolate houses are rectifying the hot chocolate situation, I’m not sure if the same can be said for tea. IMBUE helps fill this gap with such paunch that even nontea drinkers would be impressed.
Post Script. It appears that IMBUE will stop offering public events after a few more scheduled in 2017. I can’t wait to go to some of these and will be greatly saddened when they stop.