Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Get High on Tea!

The tea drinker vs. the coffee drinker is like a clash of the Titans or a duel between classical and jazz music. Tea drinkers are somehow like the refined-yoga-health-conscious-freaks, whereas the coffee drinkers are the hyper-workaholics-multi-tasking hip group.

With the proliferation of cafes and hangout places around town, these chill-out groupies are offered a lot of choices. Which group out numbers who is not the point but the places to go matters the most. Apparently there is a large group of tea drinkers judging from the afternoon hi-tea hype all over Bangkok. It seems nibbling little cucumber sandwiches and sipping jasmine green tea is one the highly rewarding afternoon activity of the hi-so and trendy crowd.

Recently, worlds collided at the Four Seasons with the conglomeration of 5-star chefs from all over the globe, boosting Bangkok's reputation even more. Two pastry chefs from all over the globe had week-long activities from baking demonstration to fancy afternoon tea menu presentation. Five-star pastry chef, Katrina Kanetani from Sydney, Australia, made offerings of different grades of fine chocolates paired with spices and fruit reductions harmonizing into the desserts. Katrina says, “… a drop of this and a drop of that enhances the tea flavors”. While Nicole Kransinski from San Francisco, California, used local spices to lace up desserts resulting in unexpected flavors.

Afternoon in Bangkok has stepped up a notch higher as 5-star hotels and cafes try to outdo each other. Heading the race is The Four Seasons (155 Rajadamri Road, Bangkok, Tel: 02 2501000) with its traditionally luxurious afternoon tea delight. Maintaining its exquisite choices of savories and sweets, weekend are best spent enjoying tea time at The Lobby, amidst the ornate ceiling and the imposing columns that set the mood to an atmosphere of sheer class (850B/person for weekend tea buffet; 650B/set on weekdays). A wide selection of fine black tea, green tea, fruit tisane and herbal infusion match with foie gras parfait Napoleon or warm apple tart with vanilla ice cream, provide an ideal weekend treat.

The search moves on to one of the first in high tea cultures. The Oriental Hotel (48 Oriental Avenue, Tel:02 659 9000) celebrates its old traditions within the Author’s Lounge, where famous writers once sipped tea. Its setting is a blast from the past designed with white-washed rattan armchairs and white parasols. Munch on scones, pastries and cakes carefully placed on 3 tiered tray for a lazy afternoon amid the tall bamboos and palm trees (880B/tea sets), or order ala carte from the menu.

Feeling a bit fancier? Splurge on an extravagant tea time at lebua lounge (1055/111 Silom Road, Tel: 02 6249999). A refillable set of sandwiches, cakes and savories (1,500B) is served with tea fit for a queen. Overindulge by starting with a bubbly glass of champagne, before gorging on the light snacks that include mini steak sandwiches and itsy-bitsy sweets that can be the highlight of any day (tea set with Champagne, 4,500B).

A view of the river with couples swarming in for an afternoon of ballroom dancing with a live band translates into a lively and quite entertaining weekend at the Shangrila Hotel lobby (89 Soi Wat Suanplu, New Road; Tel: 02 236 7777). The food offered is more like a mini lunch buffet with noodles and Thai treats aside from the usual sandwiches and sweets, which is a tip-off from the traditional high tea (650B/person). What makes it more attractive is the show it offers, it’s up to you if you’d like to be the spectator or the performer.
Smack right in the middle of the busy Sukhumvit area, the Sheraton Grande (250 Sukhumvit Road; Tel: 02 649 8888) offers a refuge from the madding frenzy. The Living Room up to the Library at the mezzanine offers a venue for a quiet weekday afternoon hangout for hi tea fans (470B). On weekends, it transforms into a livelier ambience with its afternoon tea time buffet with jazz music (600B). Guests gather at around 3pm to savor the hefty assortment of tapas, sandwiches and sweets to jazz-up their weekend.
History undeniably attests to the popularity of tea. Although the British are particularly known for their love of tea and drink more tea per capita than any other country in the world, this part of the world is “indeed” catching up. Even the word hi-tea itself connotes elegance in the old world sense; and it has its in vogue appeal, too. I guess sitting on a low table sipping tea daintily holding the cup with one pinkie finger pointing up while savoring finger foods in one of these fine places is really refreshing. Everyone ought to be able to say the least- “been there, done that”.

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