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Royal Ascot create a bespoke blend of tea

PUBLISHED: 14:20 25 April 2014

Archant

Royal Ascot has to be the ultimate afternoon tea experience and, to make it extra special, this year Ascot Racecourse has enlisted the help of Henrietta Lovell, founder of Rare Tea Company, to create a bespoke blend

“People who want ethically sourced, finest quality, really good tea come to me,” Henrietta says. And it’s true. Her clients include Noma, Claridge’s and Momofuku and she sells her teas through Waitrose and Selfridges.

However, this was not always the case. Seven years ago, Henrietta left her job as a project manager for a global packaging company after her father died before he got to fulfill his retirement plans. She realised she must pursue her true ambitions. Having tasted ‘real’ tea on business in China, Henrietta wanted to bring it to the whole world and founded Rare Tea Company in 2004.

Just as the company was about to launch, Henrietta was herself diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing a year of intensive treatment, she made a full recovery and has been cancer free ever since.

Now, Henrietta is on a mission: she wants the nation to revert back to the high quality, loose-leaf tea that was once the standard. “In 1968 only three per cent of people in Britain used a tea bag. It’s not traditional, it’s not British and it’s not necessary,” she insists.

Henrietta travels around the world sourcing tea directly from farmers and makes sure it is done in a sustainable way and that workers are paid a fair wage. Ever the master craftswoman, she compares tea making to wine making – just like grapes, different tea varieties hold a whole host of tastes that can be blended to unlock some very special flavour combinations. A far cry from your average tea bag!

For Royal Ascot’s blend – the Royal Ascot English Afternoon Tea – Henrietta worked in collaboration with Ascot’s Executive Chef Steve Golding and Head Chef Gemma Amor to ensure that every dish goes with the tea, especially the scones. “The milk in the cream attaches to the tannins in the tea, while the sugar sweetens. The whole combination in your mouth is amazing,” she explains.

Steve Golding said: “We have invested many hours in researching afternoon tea served across the UK to develop what we believe is the very best Royal Ascot Afternoon Tea, which captures the spectrum of quintessentially British flavours. The menu will include a range of five sandwiches, scones accompanied by a strawberry and champagne preserve and lemon curd from Highgrove Estate and cakes including a cassis and chocolate crown, a lemon Victoria top hat and cravat, a Peach Melba financier and a rhubarb and custard macaroon. We believe it compliments Henrietta’s bespoke Royal Ascot blend beautifully.”

Henrietta describes the blend itself: “The Ascot blend is rich, malty, deeply satisfying and comforting in a very familiar way, but it’s also got light floral notes and subtle complexities of dark chocolate and caramel. This has no flavourings in it, those notes come from the tea itself, just like in wine.”

But what’s the reason behind Britain’s obsession with a cuppa? “We’ve got the best taste,” Henrietta states simply. “It’s more subtle than coffee, more elegant, more comforting, more adaptable. The British became obsessed with it when we had the best, and I’m bringing the best back.”

And what could be more fitting? The best tea for the best race meeting in the world.

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To find out more about Henrietta’s amazing story, or to get yourself some of her delicious tea, visit www.rareteacompany.com

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A day out to remember

Fancy the chance to try Henrietta’s tea for yourself at the outstanding event that is Royal Ascot? To get your tickets, visit tickets.ascot.co.uk

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