Chinese New Year is the most important event in the Chinese calendar, and has spread all over the world. In 2016 it falls on 8 February, and marks the Year of the Monkey. While many Chinese families will be celebrating in their own homes and attending huge family gatherings, it’s also a time when Chinese restaurants unveil special menus and help spread awareness of the country’s traditions.
Hakkasan Group has Michelin-starred and award-winning restaurants throughout London (and the rest of the world), and the team there knows everything there is to know about Chinese food and drink. To find out more about Chinese New Year and the rising trend for pairing tea with food, we met with Eder Neto (who manages the bars and drinks served in all the restaurants) at London’s Yauatcha City – Hakkasan’s dim sum tea house and patisserie.
‘Tea is such an important part of Chinese culture – people drink it with every meal, even if other drinks like wine are being served as well,’ he explains. ‘We don’t see many places offering tea flights or matching teas in the UK, however, because people never think to choose it when eating out. But lately we’ve seen an increased demand for non-alcoholic drinks, and tea is now something diners want when they don’t want alcohol. When pairing you automatically think about wines or a cocktail, but now the trends are starting to show more people want healthier, non-alcoholic alternatives, especially around this time of year.’
Yauatcha is a contemporary tea house, so it goes without saying that there needs to be a good variety of leaves on offer. ‘Originally, the menu was much more complex than it is now, divided into tea categories – green, blue, roasted; we had almost a hundred teas at one point,’ says Eder. ‘However, we found that people were lost when reading the menu – there were so many pages of teas they’d never heard of. So we simplified it and sorted them by flavour profile: light, floral, complex and robust.’