Here’s a brainteaser: New York’s Waldorf-Astoria, the Honolulu St. Regis, Restaurant Daniel in New York City, The Bellagio in Las Vegas, The Beverly Hills Hotel, El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico, Berkeley’s Chez Panisse, and Washington’s Greenbrier Resort—among many other world-class establishments—all have something in common. What is it?
Well, the obvious answer is award-winning cuisine and hospitality. The less obvious thread that runs through each of these remarkable restaurants and hotels is that they all serve Harney & Sons Fine Teas. Nothing with the Lipton label will ever grace the teacups at these prestigious establishments. Ditto for local upscale inns and eateries like Grand America and Stein Eriksen Lodge, both of which proudly serve Harney & Sons teas.
Normally, this column is about booze. But as I discovered at a recent Stein Eriksen Lodge dinner, man cannot live on booze alone; sometimes he must drink tea. In fact, I recently learned that tea is the most popular beverage on the planet, after water.
At Stein Eriksen Lodge, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning about teas from tea master John Harney, a most enjoyable gentleman who knows more than a thing or two about tea and is refreshingly unstuffy about it. The founder and head honcho at Harney & Sons was in town for a special tea weekend at Stein’s that featured all sorts of tea-oriented events, including a wonderful tea dinner where the Stein Eriksen chefs created a five-course meal incorporating Harney & Sons tea into each course. Let’s see, there was a killer Cotornix quail dish with Darjeeling oatmeal cakes, a raspberry-tea sorbet and chanterelle-crusted venison loin with cinnamon tea-spiced currant jus, just to name a few. Each dish of this special tea dinner was inspired and delectable.
Since 1983, John Harney has traveled the world so that we in the West can enjoy world-class tea. From the best black teas of Ceylon and China to distinctive white and green teas from the far reaches of Africa, India and Japan, John Harney has accumulated an impressive tally of frequent-flyer mileage in searching out the world’s best teas. Frankly, I’m a tea rookie and was baffled to discover that Harney & Sons sells 10n different varieties of Darjeeling tea alone. I always thought it was one thing from one place. Silly me.
Among Harney’s Darjeeling array is Goomtee, Glenburn, Temi Sikkim, Namring, Meleng, Assam, and Harishpur, available in SFTGFOP1, FGBOP1 and FBOP varieties. The latter hieroglyphs refer to the size of the tea leaves: large (and expensive), smaller “broken” leaves, and medium-size chunky, respectively. Don’t worry, it’s Greek to me too. Thankfully, Harney & Sons’ informative catalogs and Website www.harney.com can help you sort through any tea-time confusion. In fact, you can call up John Harney himself on the phone, and he’s always more than happy to talk tea.
Since discovering Harney & Sons teas, I’ve found myself leaning toward the more exotic tea-bag varieties—I haven’t quite made the jump to loose-tea preparation yet. I especially like Harney & Sons Indian Spice tea, with a fragrant note of ginger and cardamom. According to John Harney, Indians always drink this tea with milk and sugar. I also very much like Harney’s Hot Cinnamon Spice tea which, although it might be sacrilegious, can serve as a very nice foundation for a winter aprÃ¨s-ski cocktail.
You can order John Harney & Sons teas and have them sent directly to your doorstep or try them out in finer restaurants. Grand America offers its daily afternoon tea service featuring Harney & Sons teas.