Tea drinking is a serious business – in many parts of the world. And few people understand this better than Maranda Barnes, co-founder of Singapore’s TWG Tea. An avid connoisseur of the refreshing beverage, Barnes has sampled it everywhere from tea plantations to luxe hotels.
Here, Barnes shares her favourite places around the world to enjoy a cup of tea.
1. Marrakech Medina, Morocco
In Morocco, tea drinking is part of the culture, and the preparation of thé vert à la menthe (green tea with mint) is an art that is passed down from generation to generation. One of the most vibrant places to experience it is in the bustling medina of Marrakech (above). Not in a tea salon or restaurant, but in the tiny shops themselves – proof that the best Moroccan tea is always homemade.
Show interest in any item, and a penchant for negotiation, and the merchant will prepare a silver pot of this delicious elixir, always served in tiny ornate glasses. But don’t bother asking for a sugar-free version – Moroccan mint tea is always well sweetened with a local specialty: hand-processed raw cane sugar, shaped into a cone, which dissolves into a sweet and addictive concoction.
2. Atmosphere at Burj Khalifa, UAE
A favourite tea-drinking destination is Atmosphere at Burj Khalifa. In one of the world’s most iconic buildings, 442m above ground, the restaurant provides a one-of-a-kind experience. I always feel like I am sipping a cup of tea amidst the clouds. We have created a blend inspired by this visually striking building – Burj Khalifa Tea consists of the much sought after Yin Zhen blended with sweet mints and fragrant orange blossoms for a honeyed infusion.
3. Yunnan Pu-Erh Tea Brick Plantation, China
Tea plantations are always the most spectacular places to try a cup of tea. Yunnan is one of my favourite destinations, particularly the garden where our Pu-Erh tea bricks are specially cultivated and aged. It was here I learnt about the intricacies of maturing tea and the labour intensive process behind producing the prized Pu-Erh tea brick. Each cup of tea is a precious infusion.
4. St Regis Bali Resort, Indonesia
St. Regis Bali Resort is one of the places I like to go to when I am looking for a quiet sanctuary to unwind. The calm and tranquil environment of the resort also makes an ideal location to enjoy a cup of tea and sooth my senses. The resort also offers a wide selection of tea, including an exclusive blend created for St. Regis hotels, from TWG Tea.
5. Okayti Tea Plantation, India
The Okayti tea plantation, founded in 1888, produces some of the most exquisite teas in the world and was a favourite of Queen Victoria of England. The estate sits over undulating terrain, at altitudes of up to 2,000m, and the view is magnificent – you are literally standing on top of the clouds!
Travelling to the plantation is a challenge due to its inaccessibility, but always worth it. First flush Darjeeling, also known as the Champagne of Tea, is best enjoyed as soon as it has been processed. Tasting sessions are hosted by the tea planter, and yield exceptional insights about the particularities of each harvest. Coupled with the picturesque terrains of the estate, it is a breathtaking tea drinking experience.
6. Kyushu Grand Sencha Plantation, Japan
Another region where tea drinking is deeply ingrained in its culture and history is Japan. In Kyushu, the flawlessly manicured slopes of Mount Kirishima cultivate one of the finest green teas – Grand Sencha. In Japan, it is exceptionally humbling tasting tea direct from the source. It’s a country where cultivating, picking, processing and even preparing teas for a tasting are done with an almost devout attention to detail. The result is always spectacular.
7. TWG Tea Republic Plaza, Singapore
Back home, I like to enjoy a cup of tea at TWG Tea at Republic Plaza whenever I have the chance. This salon and boutique is exceptionally close to my heart as it was the very first store that TWG Tea opened in 2008. It was a milestone for us as it marked the beginning of a global expansion.
Located on the first level of Republic Plaza, it has a striking design that features hand-painted tea tins and tea accessories alongside polished wood furnishings. It offers privacy amid the bustling Central Business District to sip a cup of tea, whether it’s an intimate gathering or a business meeting.
– TEXT BY RACHEL LEES
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.