Sunday June 29 2014

The aromatic high tea time



By Kadumukasa Kironde II

To the best of my knowledge, Serena Kampala Hotel first introduced the concept of the high tea, a couple of years ago. In similar vein, Tamarai Restaurant has seen it fit to follow suit albeit with theirs emphasising and serving an astonishing array of teas from Sri Lanka. Just like in China, the most precious tree or shrub is that of the tea plant.

Since the sixth Century A.D, tea drinking has been greatly popularised in China and Sri Lanka known as Ceylon until 1972. I’m told that Tamarai is the first of its kind in the region to offer a plethora of teas.

One of the blessings of the tea shrub is that it seems to prefer the poorer soil. The plant achieves a height of about three to five feet and produces glossy dark green leaves and waxy white blossoms. After the third year, the leaves may be plucked.

The higher the leaves are upon the shrub, the finer they are; and all leaves must be plucked within three to five days or else the tender leaves are spoiled for first quality production. From these leaves, two main types of tea, the green and the red (known abroad as black tea) are produced as a result of varying techniques in curing.

The firing of tea leaves produces an aroma so fragrant that it floats and permeates everything around and afar. After they have withered sufficiently, they are then curled and twisted by hand. The leaves are then dried and packed in loose form or in brick form. Tea bricks are generally made out of tea-leaf dust and this dust is steamed and then put into molds and compressed by hydraulic pressure. The majority of medicinal and powerful teas are sold in this form.

Fragrance and flavour
Tea from Sri Lanka is on the whole much less astringent than Indian or other teas while at the same time also possess a more pure and delicate flavour and fragrance. This delicacy of flavour and fragrance is often further enhanced the addition of fragrant blossoms or fruit like the Jasmine, cypress and menthol tea.

In Sri Lanka and China, people literally gather there all day long to exchange the latest news, gossip and scuttlebutt. What makes the Tamarai High Tea distinct and unusual are the over two dozen varieties of teas on hand ranging from green to blackish to red and all these have subtle nuances that distinguish from each other. The tea is steeped in a porcelain teapot and the interior of the pot is first scalded with boiling water before the leaves are tossed in allowing for about a half to one teaspoon for each measuring cup of water. The same formula is applied to iced tea which is always available at Tamarai Restaurant.

The boiling water is then poured into the pot with the lid securely in place and several minutes are given for the tea to steep. After one finishes the tea in either teapot of cups, Sri Lankans never throw away the residue of saturated leaves since much pure flavor may be obtained from the leaves with a second or even third steeping of boiling water. As with all good quality tea leaves, most of the pure delicate flavours and fragrances manifest themselves with the second steeping.

For the bites, we were regaled with fish fingers, smoked salmon tidbits, cold skewered tidbits, pastry cheese balls, marinated raw vegetables (crudités vinaigrette) canapés and bite-size sandwiches.

If you go…
Our rating: Worth a visit
The place: Tamarai Restaurant
Event: The Tamarai High Tea
Address: 14 Lower Kololo Terrace, Kololo Kampala
The space: Cozy indoors with a lovely semi alfresco setting
The crowd: Upmarket
The bar: Coffee, tea juice beer, wine, spirits smoothies and a vast number of tea flavours from which to choose
Recommended dishes: The iced tea is a winner
The damage: Shs40,000
Sound level: Very good
Parking: Available
Smoke-free zone: Not encouraged, but allowed on the verandah.
If you go: Every last Saturday of the month
Open: Daily

RATINGS: Not to be missed, worth a visit, OK/so-so, don’t waste your time.
These ratings are purely the reviewer’s personal reaction to food, ambience and service with price being factored into consideration. The menu listings and prices are subject to change without notice.