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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Tea with a French twist

Frenchman Pascal Hamour set up a tea company when he could not find a decent cup of tea in Paris
The Straits Times - March 19, 2012
By: Rebecca Lynne Tan
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Tea with a French twist Pascal Hamour's teas can also be drunk cold. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Pascal Hamour has a nose for fine things.

His acute sense of smell has seen him through three careers - first as a perfumer for the Lancaster Group, then as a self-employed gourmet coffee roaster and now, a tea merchant.

The 44-year-old Parisian says jokingly: 'Tea is not just for the British.'

Mr Hamour, who speaks fluent English with a heavy French accent, tells Life! that while good coffee was plentiful throughout Paris in the past, he could not get a decent cup of tea.

He found that many hotels used mass-produced tea bags that were unable to produce a quality tea. So, in an attempt to fill that gap in the market, he started an eponymous tea company 12 years ago and has not looked back since.

His teas can be found in some of the world's most well-known hotels, from the Ritz in Paris to the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, as well as in top restaurants such as those run by three-Michelin-starred chefs Michel Rostang and Yannick Alleno.

His teas are now available at the Raffles Hotel in Beach Road. The merchant was in town last week to train and educate hotel staff on the operational aspects of serving his teas.

But do not expect to find his teas in department stores or stand-alone retail shops - that is not his objective, he says.

'I do not want to have a retail shop. For me, it is impossible to be a supplier for a hotel and have retail shops. You have to make a choice - and my choice is to work only with five-star hotels and top restaurants.'

He emphasises that exclusivity, quality and guest experience take top priority.

'What is important for me is to understand what both the hotel and the guest want. And the guests are the centre of my concept - to have the best cup of tea every time,' he adds.

The camera-shy Frenchman is adamant that his picture not be taken because he wants his tea to be the focus of the interview.

His teas, which are organic and come in biodegradable tea bags made from maize, range from Sencha to a Darjeeling with mint, as well as a smoked Lapsang Souchong, which he created specially for his good friend shoe designer Jimmy Choo.

He even has a tea just for kids - it is a fruit and herbal infusion and does not have caffeine.

The I Love Candy Infusion Bio Organic tea was actually created for his daughter Eleanor, 12, who began drinking tea when she was about three or four.

He has three other children - Maxime, 17, Elias, three, and Sophia, seven months.

His wife Fatma, who is in her 30s, is his 20-strong company's finance director.

The tea merchant sources his tea leaves and flowers from all over the world, from India to Egypt. For instance, his organic camomille, which is made only with petals, is sourced from the south of France.

But if the quality is not up to scratch, he will obtain the flowers from other parts of the world, including Egypt.

In fact, he is so serious about quality that he tastes each batch that is produced.

He will lay out 50 wine glasses and infuse 50 types of the same tea leaf or petal, to sniff out what smells and tastes best.

His sharp olfactory sense comes in handy, indeed.

He says: 'With coffee, there are 2,000 aromas, but with tea, it is easier - there are only about 200 to 300 aromas.'

Pascal Hamour's teas are available at all food and beverage outlets at the Raffles Hotel Singapore in Beach Road.

How to brew a cup of tea

Artisan tea merchant Pascal Hamour shares tips on how to make a good cup of tea:

 

  • Make sure your teapot is clean - there should be no leftover residue.
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  • Rinse the pot in hot water so as to rid it of lingering musky smells. Do the same for tea cups, if necessary.
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  • If preparing a white tea, which is more fragile, the water should not be too hot - hot water from an electric air pot or water kept hot on a coffee warmer will do. Black teas, which are stronger, can be made with hotter water.
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  • Each bag is enough for a cup of tea - about 150ml of water. If making a pot of tea for more people, increase proportions accordingly.
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  • In general, tea bags can be infused for as long as you like. But ideally, teas such as a Darjeeling should be infused for about three minutes, while an Earl Grey or green tea should be infused for a maximum of five minutes.
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