UPDATED: Sadly as at 2018, the TWG Tea Salon has closed down in Abu Dhabi.
A spot of afternoon tea at a shop in a mall might not grab you as the first place you might like to go, but lovers of tea would be mad to miss out. I spent a leisurely afternoon at the new TWG Tea Salon at Yas Mall to find out more and was both surprised and impressed with what I discovered…
So, a tea shop in a mall, eh? What’s so interesting about that then? Well, aside from the fact that they offer every type of tea from all over the world that you can ever dream of, there is a bit more to it than just your run of the mill shop selling tea – they don’t say they have ‘the finest teas of the world’ for nothing you know.
I love the look of the shop when you walk in. It just can’t help but transport you to an age gone by with its traditional, old-fashioned store style decor – very charming.
One half of the store is set up with a counter where you can enquire about teas and smell them to your heart’s content before choosing your brew. The assistant will then also fully explain the intricacies of how it should be best prepared and brewed before measuring it out on old style scales for you to take home.
The other side of the store is set up with dining tables for those who’d like to stop in for a quick pot of tea while shopping, or even sample their gourmet meals or sumptuous afternoon tea.
There are more types of tea than you can shake a stick at and all beautifully presented in rows upon rows of these gorgeous tins. As well as tea, there’s everything you can imagine to go along with those teas too… there’s a counter where you can peruse all manner of macarons, each gently infused with tea flavourings, tea infused biscuits along with seasonal ranges of edible tea infused gifts.
Aside from the enchanting decor and amazing range of teas, one of the things that I found really made my visit was the staff. All of the staff are highly trained and really know their Earl Greys from their Green Teas. If you like tea but don’t know where to start (and on first glance the shop can seem a bit daunting if you don’t), but the staff are only too willing to help find you the perfect tea based on what you can tell them about your likes and dislikes. They can also tell you about the history of the company and everything about how different teas are processed in different countries, what makes some teas finer than others and so much more. Who knew there was so much to know about tea? I certainly didn’t before my visit, and I have to say it was fascinating to learn. Did you know that as well as white tea, green tea and red tea that there’s also such a thing as blue tea? Nope, I didn’t either, but it’s true! Imagine that.
Their list of teas as you can imagine is more than impressive, both to buy to take home or for a quick cuppa in the tea shop – the most popular ones are also available in individual, 100% cotton, hand sewn tea bags – very fancy! The picture below just shows the front page of their tea menu when in actual fact it’s pages long! Don’t let that worry you though, again, the assistants will only be too happy to help and point you in the direction of a brew that is sure to please if you’re unsure.
I went with the afternoon tea which is a rather reasonable Dhs140 for two considering what is included. I plumped for a white tea – one of my favourites – and was recommended I try the White Night Jasmine Tea which was right up my street.
With the afternoon tea the food just seems to keep on coming, there’s a selection of five macarons (you can choose the flavours), a choice of two cakes from that day’s specials, four freshly baked scones – choose from date and lemon, plain or savoury (with cream and jams of course), a selection of sandwiches, mini burgers and of course your choice of tea.
That might all sound a bit, well, normal, but I found it to be delicious and surprising. The blends of flavours that are used in the sandwiches were unusual but really flavoursome – the tarragon chicken tenders infused with Comptoir des Indes tea was amazing and my favourite amongst what was a great selection.
Just about everything is infused with tea (of course) and I realise that this may not sound especially appealing, but I promise you – you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Even the jam for the scones is infused with tea – I had raspberry jelly infused with black tea and apricot and a Red of Africa tea jelly. Perhaps ‘tea infused’ makes you think of heavy flavours and an overpowering tea-like flavour, but this is not the case. As you should expect from the finest teas of the world, teas have all kind of flavours, some much stronger and much lighter than others, but all are blended with what clearly requires a great amount of skill to result in such delicate flavours. In fact, who knew teas were so complex? Far more complex than even wine it would seem and different types of teas also have specially recommended food pairings. Of course these will vary according to the depth of flavour and blend, but generally, green tea is a good match for seafood and black tea for meats as a couple of examples.
It’s not part of the afternoon tea, but after having been exposed to such delicate tea flavours, I couldn’t resist trying some tea infused ice cream. I haven’t really enjoyed tea flavoured ice creams in the past, but of course was quickly learning to expect something different from TWG. I had tastes of the Lucky Tea ice cream which is a green tea, and the vanilla bourbon tea. Both were delicate, light and tasty – a must try.
It wouldn’t be the Middle East if they didn’t have a gold tea, and of course I wasn’t let down. Gold has become rather synonymous with this region although of course the tea itself has come from China and is not just an empty symbol of wealth and opulence. All of the teas have different health benefits and it seems that gold in tea actually acts as a powerful antioxidant being great for skin and bone marrow due to the mineral rich content.
This particular tea is infused with 24 carat gold, but it does come at a price as the most expensive tea in the shop!
Drinkers of iced tea will be pleased to see they are also not forgotten with a specific range of teas just for them. Yep, again, who knew you needed a different type of tea for hot and cold teas? Just as water that is too hot can scold the tea leaves and negatively affect the flavour, if you use the wrong type of tea with cold water, it can also affect the flavour. That reminds me – did you know that some tea leaves also need to be washed before you brew them? That’s some pretty high maintenance tea if you ask me, but I’m told it’s worth it and makes a difference to the flavour experience.
Of course there are also specialist tea pots to keep tea warm but ensure the flavour doesn’t over soak and become too strong, along with cups galore and all the tea making paraphernalia you could ever need – or want as a gift for the tea fiend in your life.
I have to say, it was genuinely a fascinating afternoon out and I learned an awful lot about tea. As a Brit myself, we have a reputation as being big tea drinkers but I had no idea tea could be so interesting.
The TWG Tea Salon is now open in Yas Mall. You can find out more by clicking the link to their website, give them a call on 02 565 0360 or even better, just get down there yourself in person for a good sniff around. And that’s it, so on that note I’m off to brew myself a nice cup of White Night Jasmine Tea here at home 🙂