Feeling Thirst-Tea? Hong Kong’s Tell Camellia Pours Up Tea-Based Cocktails
When you think about tea culture in Hong Kong, what tends to come to mind is memories of nai cha and pu er cha in the neighbourhood char chaan teng (茶餐廳, which translates to “tea restaurant”), or of many colourful, flavour-filled cups of bubble tea one can purchase across Hong Kong’s growing network of bubble tea chains. But recently, one Hong Kong establishment is offering up another type of tea-drinking experience – one that combines a whole lot of booze and a whole lot of creativity.
(Image source: Tell Camellia)
Enter Tell Camellia, a hidden cocktail bar in the heart of Central Hong Kong, dedicated to serving up tea-inspired and tea-based cocktails. Aptly named after the Camellia plant, whose leaves is harvested and used to make a wide range of teas – black teas, white teas and green teas among others. The bar was opened by industry veterans Sandeep Hanthiramani and Gagan Gurung, borne from an idea the duo had while working on a separate project in Mumbai and chatting over a round of masala tea.
At Tell Camellia, the menu is divided into two sections. The first is called Teatails, offering various cocktails named after the origin of the tea blend and inspired by the local flavors surrounding the country. The second is T&Tonics, a collection of gins that have been redistilled in-house with a range of different teas. Some examples include the Lapsang T-Tonic and the Lychee & Summer Fruit Ceylon T-Tonic.
The Teapresso Martini (Image source: Tell Camellia)
Despite its eye-catching proposition, Tell Camellia is free of superfluity. Here, tea is incorporated in thoughtful and flavour-enhancing ways, rather than being put into cocktails for the sake of upholding a theme. An example is the Teapresso Martini, an reinterpretation of the famous espresso martini. For this, Hojicha tea and Hojicha tea liqueur was specifically selected to give the same roasted flavor that people look out for in the martini, but without the coffee.
Having opened in 2019, quickly climbing to the ranks of Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2021, Tell Camellia seems to be going from strength to strength in the past four years.
But one needn’t worry that they might run out of new cocktail ideas as time goes on – if you think about it, tea can be an incredibly versatile ingredient. There’s a whole wide range of different teas offering different flavour complexities – from earthy Pu Er to the floral Earl Grey, from spicy Masala to smokey Hojicha – making it ripe for new cocktail ideation.
This is demonstrated through cocktails like the Brazil, which combines Brazilian black tea with mate tea, that’s redistilled with tequila and mixed with mezcal, coriander, yuzu and syrup. Or the Australia, where the lush, earthy yalangi rain tea from Queensland holds up well to the addition of tim tams, clarified strawberry, blue cheese, koala munchies and whisky.
The insta-famous floating cocktail, Japan. (Image source: Tell Camellia)
Another can’t miss cocktail at Tell Camellia is the Japan, famously known as the “floating cocktail”. Served in a wooden vessel much like a chawan (茶碗, a ceremonial tea bowl often used in Japan), it features both evaporated and redistilled green tea with a umami twist of seaweed and plankton.
If you find yourself in Hong Kong one of these days and feeling thirst-tea (excuse the pun), consider making Tell Camellia your next stop.
LG/F, H Code
45 Pottinger Street
Central, Hong Kong
+852 6038 4020
IG: @tellcamellia | FB: @tellcamellia
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