Okay. Seriously. Forget what else is happening on Afternoon Tea Week 2015 (10th-16th August) – your butts should be at Opium Chinatown.
The London Tea Club, spread across Europe and North America, supply members with teas every month matching their flavour profile – perfect for the tea buff – have supplied Opium with a share of some of their most popular teas to construct a spectacular tea-infused cocktail list for Afternoon Tea Week (though the Hoodooist says that they should be permanent cocktails on the Opium menu).
Tucked away in the deep red corridors of Opium, beyond the Jade Door on Gerrard Street, find yourself present with 5 magical cocktails, named after the tea used in the concoction:
A major hit of the night (with one friend drinking three of them exclusively), the Antique Rose: Absolut Elyx vodka infused with Antique Rose tea, with Cocchi Americano Rosa and orange oil.
A beautiful, beautiful twist on the vodka Martini, the nose is alluring and primarily the Rosa’s berries and florals (lavender?), with hints of bitter chinchona. By palate, the sweeter tea with powerful rose notes adds life to the Elyx, the strong tea and rose eruption is followed by enveloping raspberry, strawberry and vanilla – ending on a castanet kick of quinine, cloves, a hint of ginger and orange zest.
Sophisticated, aromatic, seductive. A winner.
If you want to go for something a little less Carmen, and a bit more Cosette, then the Lapsang Souchong might be for you: Buffalo Trace bourbon, apricot liqueur, tea-smoked cherries.
The normally deep, smokey tea is mellowed here, in a cocktail that appears to be more similar to a whiskey sour than you’d imagine. A very good one, nonetheless. Shy, fruit laden, the cocktail begins with the apricot, followed by the Buffalo Trace’s oaky, toffee, brown sugar flavours, leading toward the slightly more tart cherry and ending on a soft bed of lapsang souchong smoke.
A bit sweet, bit fruity, longer and easy to relish for the whiskey sour fan.
Now the White Peony, this one is always just out of reach, so well-composed, so independent, with footfalls of tiny bells: Double strength White Peony tea, Herradura Plata tequila, Belsazar White vermouth, house falernum.
The nose is strongly of the white peony, but underneath there is a lingering layer of agave. The first flavour belongs to the Herradura, soft, oaky, bright agave notes – but give away almost immediately to the tea, and below flowers the very restrained Belsazar and falernum with spicier, fruitier flavours. This cocktail, though loaded with various flavours, always feels so restrained and in control – it is delicate and patience is needed to fully appreciate it.
In short: It’s a bloody success.
In contrast, the Goji Berry & Chrysanthemum is far louder: The teas infused in Absolut vodka and a splash of pink grapefruit juice makes a strongly juicy and brightly fruity cocktail. It might lack the White Peony’s complexity, but is a great middle-drink when wandering through the menu to lighten the spirits between the hardhitters. It might not be the Hoodooist’s style, but is an admirable cocktail, nonetheless, well crafted.
The pink grapefruit juice and vodka are the first to hit you, followed by the flowering flavours of Goji berry, and finishing on the floral chrysanthemum.
Finally, the Iron Goddess of Mercy. More commonly known as Tie Guan Yin (or even TGY), the dramatic name comes from various legends that have the same result: the Goddess of Mercy, Guan Yin, has provided a patient listener with a treasure in the form of an Oolong tea whose popularity spread across the country. Rich, and sweet, using it in a nectar-like syrup for a classic Rum Daiquiri was a fantastic choice.
Refreshing, bright, but not lacking in depth, this cocktail (in all its simplicity) is a breath of fresh air, and a fantastic finisher to the menu. Sweet, uplifting, with hints of herb and spice in the distance (as should be customary of a well-made Daiquiri). Wonderful.
Honestly, recently the Hoodooist has been looking for cocktails that would ‘wow’ him again, and the Tea Den did just that. Having a sip of the teas before their respective cocktails is a great idea to appreciate the brews themselves, as well as identify their place in the cocktails. I also love that the menu is set out in an excellent order, I’d recommend working your way in the same order, as the cocktails flow and contrast wonderfully that way. Manager Bruce Govia has done a remarkable job with working with the London Tea Club here, and service is light, conversational, speedy and approachable.
I guess what I’m saying is: You cannot miss this.
The Tea Den @ Opium, Chinatown
15-16 Gerrard St,
London W1D 6JA