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Food and Vintage Tea Degustation Session at Copper


Many may be able to boast of their recent excursions to restaurants and rave of the cheese and wine pairings available in town. But one rarely gets to reminisce an evening where exquisite food was paired with the most unassuming beverage that leaves the palate in awe and wanting more. After weeks and months of experimentation, Copper has hit yet another culinary milestone. I can now tick off in my bucket list of foodie adventures with this first-of-its-kind experience!

Copper is a modern European dining spot that has been repeatedly churning out delightful eats that have charmed many. So naturally I was looking forward to see what Chef Chai had up his sleeve this time. Joining him this round were Joni and Julia Leimala, whom I was told were experts in their own right.

I was frankly quite blown away with the array of food that was to be consumed so naturally one would wonder what manner of beverage would be served. My go-to would be wines to be paired with the various dishes but I was informed by Zeehan and Chai that Julia would be our Tea Master of the evening and assisted by her husband Joni.

Wait, did he just say tea?
Not just any tea, but Chinese tea! My attention was immediately captured!

I was treated to a short but informational session by Joni who briefed me on how the food would be paired to the various teas prepared. Teas would be served to me at varying temperatures consisting of hot, warm and cold and I was requested to taste the dishes paired with the tea in a specific manner or sequence. Joni assured me that I would note the difference, it all felt very scientific to me, which made me even more eager for the night’s feasting and “tea-pairing” to begin.

As much as I would love to give a full-low down of the food and the effect of the tea-pairing, I’ll leave some room for mystery as I am also told that different palates would respond in different intensity to the various tea-servings. I keenly remember Joni smiling knowingly at my looks of surprise every time as if he had expected the exact reaction from me. In the meantime, please feast your eyes on the following creations of Chef Chai and his wonderful team at Copper.

Dutch Smoked Eel, Granny Smith apple Chiboust, petite salade nicoise with Smoked Sour Cream Dressing

Cherry Gazpacho consisting of oyster, burrito, fennel and snow peas. This course came served with a cold-brew tea and I was told to pay extra care in scooping up the food with the sauce and coat my palate before swirling the contents with a quick sip of tea.

Porcini and Prawn Soup -  but fondly called the "Porcini Sunrise" by Chef Chai. Both sacrilegious AND satisfying to break that yolk swirling it together with the porcini!

To go with this masterpiece I was in for a treat as I drank a tea that was reportedly older than I am.

Ever the source of information,  Joni patiently explained that this crude, dark tea that is dusted with a light, gold glitter is actually a covering of a golden-coloured mold on the tea. I was told that during the production stage one needs to maintain a certain room temperature and humidity to encourage the appearance and growth of this golden mold which is the main ingredient in fermentation for the tea to give it its distinct flavour and quality identity. So just like alcohol, tea can also be aged similarly too.

This tea came with a slightly woody and umami flavour, subtly hinting of the production method of this premium tea. 
[Fun fact: The tea is currently priced at USD5000 per kilogram!]

Salt Beef & Mushroom Ala Jillo that came with sour cream in parsley oil, served on grilled sourdough toast.

At this juncture Joni came up with a twinkle in his eye and told he and Chef Chai had nicknamed this dish as “Dragon Jerky”, prompting me to evaluate my meal again. The moment the tea hit my palate with remnants of the meal in my mouth, my eyes widened as I realised that the “dragon” had indeed made its appearance. I hope you’ll get to catch the dragon as I had in this course!

Palate Cleanser: Basil & Lime Sorbet served on watermelon cubes

After cleansing my palate my next treat was the Wild Caught Seabass with Sour Pomme Puree, Spinach and Orange Confit Tomachurri Dressing.

Here, I was served the same tea as before but the twist came when they introduced a second tea and I was asked to decide which paired well with the meal served to me. Apparently the team had spent weeks and months trying tea after tea with dish after dish to note down how each sip would or would not go well with certain foods. Chef Chai chuckled as he recalled some pairing incidents which took a turn for the worse and Joni couldn't help but sigh and laugh at the same time too.

With that it was with much anticipation (and nervousness) that I started sipping my tea with the food. There was definitely a distinctive difference between the two teas. One of them with down smoothly with my food but the other however left an aftertaste that was in between feeling uncomfortable and unpleasant, it just didn't sit well. So just like pairing wines with food, I had first-hand experience that evening where teas had to be paired correctly with food.

Australian Lamb Rump served with a Red Miso & Prune Dressing
which I personally thought was a genius to marry the two main flavours together. Chef Chai has always won my respect as being bold and adventurous in his pursuit of culinary creativity at Copper, and this time proves yet again why he is a culinary force to be respected among his peers!

Lychee Jelly served on Long Jing Ice with Muscat Syrup

Churros with Valrhona Dark Chocolate

It’s interesting to see how tea could be paired with food as there might be individuals out there who are not for the taste of wine or any alcohol in particular. 
Tea could very well be that middle ground for them to further expand the landscape of their culinary experiences.

My personal thanks to Joni, Julia and Chef Chai’s personal touch of educating patrons of Copper on the food that is placed before them. It is truly something I will always cherish because they have succeeded in elevating my knowledge and experience in my foodie journey. I can’t wait to hear of the experiences of others who will also embark on this journey of food and tea as I did!

Get ready for both a memorable and intriguing evening with the team on Nov 23rd and 24th at Copper. Make sure you place your booking soon so that you can also enjoy an intimate evening enjoying good food and tea!

Copper, Level 5, Menara Shell, Jalan Tun Sambanthan, Kuala Lumpur
Tel:  03-2856-9522

For more of Julia’s amazing tea facts:
Instagram: @teahacking

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