Opening the senses to Jin Xuan's tea experience
Nadine Kam photos
Tea sommelier Olina Ou prepares for a tea demonstration at Jin Xuan restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong.
In most of Hawaii's Chinese restaurants, we're accustomed to receiving the house tea. Some are better than others, but whatever it happens to be, that's it. We're offered no other options.
That's not the case in Shanghai, where restaurants big and small usually have a menu of five to eight teas that range from classic oolong to dark, aged pu-erh, which I loved so much I brought some home.
At the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, Jin Xuan restaurant is home to a full menu of white, green, black, flower teas and more, as well as a tea sommelier who can help with selections.
I was fortunate to participate in a tea demonstration and tasting presented by Olina Ou, who, with the help of a translator, explained the tea ritual and how to savor tea's nuances.
First, we were invited to smell the fresh tea leaves before hot water is added. Then, we were allowed to drink in the scent released with the first brew of tea, before it was poured over the Yixing clay tea pot and porcelain tea cups in a cleansing ritual.A lunch of dim sum started with the day's special oolong tea, and the day's welcome tea, at left. The plum tea tasted like one of our favorite snacks, li hing mui! You can see I polished off half the cup before remembering to snap a photo.
To serve, Olina poured the tea into tall, narrow tea cups, capping each with the more familiar squat teacup. She flipped the arrangement upside down before presenting it to each guest. Air pressure inside the cup created a vacuum seal that prevented the tea from spilling all over us. We could feel the vacuum as we slowly lifted the tall cup, slowly releasing the tea into the smaller cup.
Once again, we raised the cup to our noses to take in the delicate scent before taking three sips, tasting the tea with the tip of our tongues, at our cheeks, and toward the back of our tongue, all tasked with picking up different flavors.
After drinking the tea, we were instructed to roll the taller cup in our palms, in front of our noses, to pick up the last aromas, which differed every step of the way.
Pouring hot water onto tea leaves in a Yixing clay pot.
Pouring the tea.
Upside down tea presentation. Lifting the top cup broke the vacuum that prevented the tea from spilling into the bottom cup before we were ready to drink it.
The restaurant is on the 53rd floor of the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, at Shanghai ifc, 8 Century Ave., Lujiazui. While there, I also enjoyed dim sum that figures prominently on the menu by day:
An amuse bouche of glazed pork.
Heart-warming chicken soup.
A beautiful shrimp dumpling.
Truffled pork xiao long bao. Much better than Din Tai Fung!
Australian Wagyu beef with mushrooms and peppers over thin-sliced zucchini.
A spring basket of wok-stirred vegetables and mushrooms.
Papaya-filled pastry, with sweet pork pastry in the back. I took one bite of the pork and it was so delicious but alas, by this point I couldn't eat anymore.
After a short rest, I was able to finish a refreshing dessert of mango pudding.