Chinese Tea Maestro casts a spell over INC at the Amaté Tea Shop
by Susannah Grant
Last month Brigitte, INC’s very own Fairy Godmother, treated us to a very special Chinese Tea Ceremony with some original add-ons of intrigue and healthy palate-teasers at family-run Tienda Amaté near Colón. I was half expecting a tiny, dark, musty and mysterious shop bulging with tins of tea on precarious bamboo shelving. Instead, I stepped out of the chaotic Madrid traffic into a bright, white serene oasis of calm as pastel-coloured partyware jostled next to beautiful artisanal Easter decorations, aromatic candles, detox products and stunningly-packaged selections of tea. As if by magic the Chinese Tea Master, Ling Long, appeared and after lighting some heady incense sticks he soon had us completely bewitched as he proceeded to mix, infuse, pour and infuse again tea upon tea in complete silence. It was rather like someone massaging your eyelids as you soaked up the aromas and felt the stress of Madrid’s nearby business district ebb away from you. I soon learned that I’d been steeping my tea for too long, thus over-enhancing the bitter tannins and that I’d probably also been making it with water that should be allowed to cool for a 1 minute or so beforehand.
By now I was casting around for some galleta María´s (Spain’s Rich Tea biscuit equivalents) to dip into my heady brew as I might do at home when the kids aren’t looking (except my lot were born with 360 degree vision) when suddenly bubbly Badajoz Chef Valentina (as in Valentina Mandarina delicious-but-still-healthy Catering) stepped forward to proffer quite the most delectable mini homemade vegan sweet and savoury breads and cakes that my taste buds can ever recall. Beaming Valentina is a culinary gluten and lactose-free Goddess who uses natural sweeteners such as dates, perfumed flowers and lots of rich nut butters including macadamia in ingenious concoctions that will smash through any vegan sceptisicm.
Over the course of a very happy morning we sampled all manner of green teas, black teas and even chocolate teas as Paula, the General Manager explained that tea is the most consumed drink in the world after water (and there was me thinking it was whisky) and is also at the heart of many Chinese herbal remedies.
By way of a fascinating aside Inmaculada Gómez stepped up and introduced her new crime novel, “En-red-@da” (Enrededa or Trapped in a web) about a fortysomething shop assistant who becomes heavily dependent on seeking male approval and avoiding potential loneliness through social media to the point of putting her own life in danger and therein commences the thriller. Whilst the softly-confident Inmaculada assured us that hers wasn’t an autobiographical tale her emotional summary certainly struck a chord with many of us present.
Finally Paula’s mother, Flor, brought our attention back to tea and we agreed that Amaté are also rather clever marketeers as, in addition to importing the well-known US tea brand, Harney & Sons, they produce their own labels with wonderfully playful names such as Anímate, Cuídate, Relájate and Mímate (Get up and go, Look After Yourself, Relax and Spoil Yourself). So I suggest you get yourself down to Calle Argensola, 6 smartish if you’re looking for a haven of peace and tranquillity or maybe the odd treat for oneself (park the guilt ladies). If I’d known my dear husband was going to forget all about Mother’s Day I’d have gone back again to treat myself……………….
How can I get my hands on some of that?
- Tienda Amaté at Calle Argensola, 6. Madrid for first class teas, partyware, tea ceremonies and gift ideas (that means lots of lovely presents I actually like). Tel 913 198 934. Open Monday to Saturdays 1100 -1430 and 1700-2030. Closed Monday mornings.
- valentinamandarina.com for mouthwatering vegan, gluten & lactose-free chef, courses and caterer extraordinaire
- Which could easily all be indulged with a riveting novel in hand such as the first in a trilogy, “En-red-@da” by Inmaculada Gómez available at bookshops and Amazon.es