I had two darjeelings today at two different hotels. Colonialism dies hard, and afternoon tea is one of those institutions that the Brits have left behind in Hong Kong. At the better hotels and restaurants they generally serve loose leaf tea of various kinds, although some places I’ve been to charge you $6 USD for the privilege of drinking an insipid teabag.
So I went to two places today, and the reason it’s actually blog worthy is because the difference was night and day. I don’t know exactly where they’re from or anything, but the first one, served at the local Conrad, was a bit boring and probably not a real Darjeeling. It was a second flush type of tea, dark, strong, but without a lot of the signature “Darjeeling” taste that I like (and the only reason why I’d order it). This is why I suspected it’s just a blend, instead of pure Darjeeling leaves. The leaves were very broken, small, low grade. It was not worth the $$ they were charging for it.
The second one, tasted at the Peninsula, was so obviously better after having had the first one. The tea was lighter — most likely a first flush Darjeeling. The leaves were less broken (forgive me for not knowing the British grading system by heart). The taste… was exquisite. It’s got that lovely fragrance of a good Darjeeling, with a nice bite to the tea but still very smooth going down. I loved it.
Of course, it probably helped that there was a band playing there for the whole time in the lobby, churning out Christmas music for the crowds and what not. It also cost more, but IMO, I’d pay the extra $$ to drink the Darjeeling there than the much, much lesser version of the first.
I wonder if they sell this tea at their gift shop. It might be worth it. I should go back and take a picture of the place, as it’s really well decorated for the Christmas season this year, and drinking afternoon tea in the Pen is something that a good tourist to Hong Kong ought to try.