Today L'Espalier announced that it hired tea sommelier Cynthia Gold, who previously worked at the Park Plaza, to ramp up its tea program. Plans include new house blends as well as new dishes and cocktails featuring tea as an ingredient. Eater spoke with Gold over email to learn more about her new gig.
Can tea really hold its own in a cocktail? Without question! But keep in mind, I'm not looking to create cocktails that scream tea. Tea is often at its best when it is subtle. It can be infused (along with secondary ingredients) into the base alcohol, it can be fun in various styles of simple syrups that are then used in the cocktails, it can be used in homemade bitters or of course it can be used in its traditional liquid form as in a tea sangria. It can even show up in garnishes, like a tea smoked salt for a drink rim.
What are some popular misconceptions about brewing, drinking or cooking with tea?
The most common misconception about cooking with tea is that it means trying to make food taste like tea. That is not at all the case. A well designed recipe of any type achieves balance between the ingredients, and this is certainly true for tea. In fact, more often then not, tea is the "secret ingredient" in a dish.
What does it take to become a tea sommelier?
The first few tea sommeliers were simply recognized in the industry after years of working with and studying tea both in the East and West. Of the original handful of us, I was the only one who was also a chef, so from the first I looked at tea a bit differently than many others in the tea industry. Currently, I'm working with representatives from Canada, the UK and France towards creating a multinational standard of certification, but we are quite far from achieving this.
What are some new ways that tea will appear on the L'Espalier menu?
The chefs at L'Espalier are incredibly talented and open to new ingredients and in fact they have already used tea in some of their dishes both savory and sweet and you will continue to see examples of this. The tea menu is also evolving and already includes several L'Espalier signature blends as well as a variety of small batch single estate teas. Very soon, a secondary tea list of very rare teas will also be introduced.
What will the new house blends be like?
We currently have three house blends. Gloucester Street Blend is an assertive and smoky blend of Chines, Indian and Sri Lankan black teas that pairs beautifully with lamb, pork, cheeses (especially pungent cheeses) and earthy desserts. Boylston Breakfast is our version of an English Breakfast tea. It was blended with milk in mind so that it can be enjoyed with milk and sweetener, or as is. L'Espalier Afternoon Blend is a softer, lighter blend with just a touch of fruit and floral notes. It was blended as a classic afternoon tea blend to enjoy with sweets and savories. We will continue to introduce new signature blends for specific events or seasons and some that could be enjoyed year round.
What is your favorite kind of tea?
I am fickle and change my preferences depending on weather, season, what I'm pairing with or even my mood. But if I had to pick a favorite style, it would be oolongs. A well crafted oolong tea is beautifully complex with aromatics to die for!
What is your favorite way to cook with tea?
A tough question. I vary technique by the needs of the dish. I enjoy using tea and spice rubs, tea in marinades, smoking with tea, infusing into beverages other than water and so much more. The possibilities are endless.
[Photo: Cynthia Gold/Star Chefs]