Writer Marissa Carruthers and photographer Charles Fox sample the offerings being served in the capital’s new TWG Tea Salon.
As a Brit, tea runs through my veins. If I’m not clutching a cup of English breakfast, then you’ll find an Earl Grey on my desk or maybe a soothing peppermint and nettle.
So, as you can imagine, the excitement was hard to contain when I discovered TWG Tea and its stylish shelves stacked full of more than 800 jars containing tea collected from across the globe was opening one an exclusive salon in Phnom Penh.
The sumptuous surroundings take in dark wooden floors, tables surrounded by plush, black velvet chairs and a silver service to almost mirror tea shops in high-end department stores. The air is fragrant with the fruits, flowers, herbs and spices that make up the carefully-crafted blends.
“We had a dream of creating something to suit tea lovers from around the world,” co-founder and president, Taha Bouqdib, says. And that TWG has achieved, with teas ($5 to $75 per pot), hailing from the finest estates in Japan, India, Laos, Georgia and Turkey.
On arrival, Singapore-trained tea connoisseurs are on hand to guide you to the perfect cup of tea, all served in a golden-armoured teapot. Fruity, fresh, spicy, flowery, hot, cold, black, red, white … the list goes on.
Then there’s the craft of creating the perfect brew. “Some blends need 90-degree water, others 100,” Bouqdib says. “Some need steeping for longer than others; it’s an art.”
Launching the brand in 2007 in Singapore, co-founders Bouqdib, Maranda Barnes and Cambodian Rith Aum-Stievenard, introduced their refined tea drinking experience to Asia. Their debut blend was Silver Moon Tea ($5), an aromatic green tea made from rare wild French strawberries, flowers from South France and red berries. A hint of spices calms what has the potential to be sickly sweet.
The 1837 Green Tea ($5) is another signature blend that takes in a refreshing mix of flowers and fruits. Offering a zany boost, the roses from South France and citrus fruits offer a refreshing kick.
Taking tea to a whole new level, the salon also boasts the craft of tea gastronomy – weaving blends into food. For example, the Cote D’Agneau ($19) sees a succulent rack of delicate lamb, lightly seasoned with cumin, oregano and rosemary. This is complimented with a perfectly cooked ratatouille drizzled in a rich brown sauce infused with Silver Moon Tea, adding a subtle sweetness.
Other dishes include summer quiche ($12), a warm and rustic French-style vegetarian dish, packed with seasonal vegetables. A side garden salad is tossed in 1837 Green Tea infused vinaigrette.
No tea salon is complete without pastries, and tea-infused macarons ($1.50 each), offer the perfect companion for a fine cup of tea.