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Chinese New Year Afternoon Tea at Harrods with Fenjiu.
Afternoon Tea is my guilty secret. It’s a treat and always engenders a sense of self-indulgence. Invited to try the just-launched Chinese New Year limited edition tea, I arrived at the 4th Floor Harrods tea room. A stunning space with beautiful stuccoed ceilings and a central cherry blossom tree are permanent fixtures while the room is currently decked out with beautiful red floral arrangements and a pair of wishing trees where guests can hang their wish for 2020. And, there’s a chance to sample an ancient Chinese spirit, Fenjiu. It’s all part of the celebrations for Chinese New Year.
The very special tea features a historic Chinese spirit that I’d personally never heard of. Fenjiu is the oldest type of Baijiu. It’s made from organic sorghum and special karst water source from 840 metres beneath a forest. The production technique dates back 6,000 years making it one of the World’s oldest known spirit. It’s also the World’s most popular spirit, with over 120,000 Baijiu distilleries in China making more than 18 billion litres each year, more than whisky gin and vodka put together. Fenjiu is still produced using a double fermentation in solid earthen cylinders which are buried underground to maintain constant humidity and temperature. Once fermented the liquor is distilled with cornhusk being added to ensure it reaches the right temperature and to increase the yield of alcohol. Then it’s stored in large ceramic jars and matured from anything between 1 and 50 years.
The afternoon tea at Harrods starts with the specially created Harrod Fenjiu Cocktail made of herbal baijiu, Longjing tea cordial, white wine and more, together with 53% 30-year-old Fenjiu. Despite the wonderfully eclectic mix of ingredients and the high ABV of the Fenjiu, it tasted light and refreshing with floral and fruity notes.
The tea itself is, as you might expect, is packed with symbolism. On the cake tray, there’s a beautiful Mandarin mousse with a mandarin compote centre which is said to be for luck, a ‘gold ingot’ or Yuanbao, caramelised white chocolate coated with black sesame which of course is for luck with money. There’s a firecracker made from strawberry and yuzu mousse on a sable base which is to scare away demons and there’s a separate tray of white chocolate Mahjong tiles filled with gunpowder tea and lime ganache.
We started with the Sandwich selection which was essentially the classic Harrods tea room selection with the addition of one based on Chinese crispy duck of roast Gressingham duck with hoisin sauce and spring onions. Quite delicious, I’d love to see this make it to the regular menu! I also loved the Faroe Islands smoked salmon and beetroot cream cheese served on brown bread. Earthy beetroot is the perfect complement for a good piquant smoked salmon. The other flavours include cucumber with cream cheese, sliced salt beef with Gruyere, Cackleberry Farm Cacklebean egg mayonnaise and a line caught tuna mayonnaise with capers and cucumber.
On to the cake layer. The Mandarin is offered on a one between two basis with the idea that Chinese New Year is all about family and sharing. Very light and delicate it’s an excellent start to the sweet selection. Each of the cakes was well thought out, light and delicate and the range of flavours was fabulous. My own favourite was the Yuanbao – does that mean I’ll be very rich this year?
And, I loved the little Mahjong tiles served to finish up the plate.
Warm fruit and plain scones are served with a wonderful Fenjiu infused apricot jam from Harrods together with clotted cream and Harrods strawberry jam. Freshly baked, they arrived wrapped in a linen napkin to keep them warm and were light as a feather.
Finally, we went on to taste a tiny shot of the spirit, Fenjiu Blue Flower 30-year-old. which is now sold at Harrods in the Wine and Spirits section. Served for us in a traditional bamboo cup it was a fitting way to (nearly) finish the afternoon tea.
All that remained was to tie our wishes to the wishing tree and make our way home. Would it have been churlish to wish for an afternoon tea like this once a week? Well, perhaps not, but I’m not entirely sure my waistline would thank me!
Customers are invited to pre-book their Afternoon Tea experience priced £68 per person between 11th January and 16th February 2020 at: +44 (0)20 7225 6800 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Fourth Floor Tea Room
87-135 Brompton Road
London, SW1X 7XL
For an alternative Chinese afternoon tea, do check Tea at Tangs – an afternoon tea at the Dorchester