Savour 2013 – Nespresso Mixologist Session Preview

28 03 2013

Savour 2013, one of Singapore’s most highly anticipated annual food events, will be held from 11-14 April. As a presenting partner and sponsor, Nespresso will be holding classes again this year, which Savour participants can sign up for during the event. If you had participated in their class sessions during Savour 2012, you would have been introduced to concepts like what makes a good espresso, proper espresso etiquette and the differences between the different Nespresso capsule flavours.

From the recent preview session that I attended, it’s fair to say that this year’s Nespresso class sessions promise to be equally educational and fun, with a focus on letting participants gain first-hand experience on concocting an array of espresso-based derivative drinks. Below is what I went through for the preview and what potential participants can expect to see at Savour 2013.

The folks from Nespresso kindly prepared some canapes before we officially kicked off the class. Though they weren’t the highlight of the preview, snapping food pictures just comes so naturally for me.

Before we started off with the hands-on concoctions, we had a brief refresher on espresso etiquette and the ritual to appreciate a good cup of espresso.

We were then given a demonstration with explanation on how to create 3 different drinks (a Rose Flavoured Cappuccino, a Coconut Flavoured Mocha and an alcoholic Caipiroska Coffee Cocktail) and were given free reign to recreate these drinks under the friendly supervision of our hosts.

Our workstations

Our workstations

Cappuccino a la Rose aka Cappuccino Bandung

Layered Coconut Mocha

Caipiroska Coffee Cocktail

My general feel is that while Singaporeans guzzle coffee as much as they do water, only a minority of us truly appreciate it. So do take the opportunity to sign up for this class or any other classes offered at Savour, especially since there’s complimentary access to them (on a first come first serve basis)!

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Gryphon Tea & Water Tasting

18 07 2012

About a week back, I was invited to a tea & water tasting session hosted by Gryphon Tea Company. I was pretty excited because I’m more of a coffee person (ever since 10 weeks ago when my internship first started) and my knowledge on teas was as voluminous as an empty teacup, so this was definitely going to be a great opportunity to pick up some pointers from tea master Mr Lim Tian Wee, Founder of Gryphon Tea Company and our host for this afternoon.

Before we got started on the tea tasting, Tea Master Lim mentioned that there are 2 critical aspects in making a good cup of tea. Firstly, the tea leaves must be fresh and of high quality and secondly and the type of water used to brew the tea must enhance, not overpower the delicacies of the tea’s natural flavours. With that in mind, Tea Master Lim recommends the use of Fiji Water, which he feels has a distinctly soft texture and balanced mineral profile that does not interfere with the aromatic tea flavours.

Tea Master Lim Tian Wee, Founder of Gryphon Tea Company

To let us better appreciate what he meant, we compared Fiji Water against Evian Water and Distilled Water. While most of us can differentiate between Distilled Water and Mineral Water, what exactly is the difference between Fiji and Evian? Aren’t they both just mineral waters?

Well, Fiji Water is categorized as an “Artesian water” while Evian is a “Spring water”, and the difference is that Artesian waters are found underground while Spring waters are sourced from exposed open springs. I have not sampled enough types of artesian waters to make any concrete judgments but from the water tasting, the general consensus was that Fiji had a cleaner and more refreshing taste with a softer texture compared to spring and distilled water, with the perfect characteristics for brewing tea.

Event Venue – Gaggenau Showroom

As we all know, taste is subjective so Fiji water might not be the best type of water for everything under the sun. Since we are on the subject of water, let me digress a bit and talk a bit of what I learnt during a Wine & Water tasting session I attended earlier this year at the Savour Singapore 2012 event. I got to compare San Pallegrino and Acqua Panna to Tap water, and subsequently paired them with wine and some food. What I found out was that like wine, the type of water you drink (whether sparkling or still) complements certain foods better than others. For example, Burrata cheese goes really badly with San Pallegrino (a sparkling water) in my opinion. And if you plan to open a good bottle of wine, my advice is not to allow any residual tap water to remain on the wine glass when pouring the wine in, and to open a bottle of mineral water for your water glass instead of drinking tap, as tap water has a metallic taste (easily detectable when you compare it to mineral water) that will interact with the wine flavours.

But enough about water. Let’s talk a bit about teas, the highlight of this post. Just a random fact but one common mistake most people make is believing that Earl Grey is a type of tea leaf. It actually is a tea blend that is flavoured with bergamot, a flavour of tea rather than a type of leaf.

Gyphon Tea Company has 24 types of single origin teas and we sampled 5 types of teas today from various regions. Just like wines, teas can come either as blends (leaves from different countries or regions mixed together) or from single origin (sometimes referred to as single-terroir tea) and what we tried today were all single origin teas. Single origin teas do not necessarily mean that the tea leaves are harvested from the same tea estate, as in some countries like Japan, tea plantations are relatively small in size so a tea factory might be required to source from several tea plantations within the same district. If a specific type of tea does come from the same estate, you can then call them single-estate teas. I believe the same naming conventions is similar for wines as well.

From Left – Vintage Pu’Erh, Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope, Dan Cong Magnolia, Gyokuro Pearl Dew, Silver Needle

The 1st tea we tried was the Silver Needle, an Imperial White Tea from Fujian, China. Of all white teas, the Silver Needle is the most expensive and prized variety while Shou Mei is the cheapest white tea. It had a sweet floral scent that would pair well with light dishes such as tofu and mozzarella cheese and was my favourite tea I tried today. Silver Needles are picked during the first harvest (aka first flush), meaning the first leaves that sprout during spring. (On the other hand, a second flush would refer to the 2nd picking season of the year.)

Silver Needle Tea Leaves

Next, we had the Gyokuro Pearl Dew from Japan, regarded as one of the highest quality and expensive varieties of sencha. The difference between sencha and matcha is that the tea leaves are grinded into a powder form for matcha while the leaves are ungrinded for sencha. Unlike typical sencha, the Gyokuro has to be put into the shade for around 2 weeks before it is harvested. As the rate of photosynthesis is reduced, there is a buildup of the amino acid theanine as less theanine is converted to other compounds. This gives rise to Gyokuro’s distinctive umami flavour which pairs well with sushi and stronger tasting cheeses.

We then tried the Dan Cong Magnolia, an Oolong Tea from Guangdong, China. This wasn’t my cup of tea because the scent was a little pungent.

Next we had the Darjeeling Margaret’s Hope from North India, which would be my 2nd favourite choice after the Silver Needle. While the tea we had is marketed as a black tea, Darjeeling can also be found elsewhere as an oolong or white tea. It all depends on the extent of oxidation of the tea leaves, with the black teas being the most oxidized followed by the oolong and then the white teas. And just like wines, tannins (the compound that gives wine its bitter and dry feel) are found in tea leaves as well. According to Tea Master Lim, if a tea has high levels of tannins, milk can be added. The milk proteins will bind to the tannins and make the tea less astringent and bearable. As this Darjeeling tea isn’t very high in tannins, Tea Master Lim suggested not adding excessive milk as it will overwhelm the tea’s flavours.

Lastly, we sampled the Vintage Pu’Erh from Yunnan, China. The flavours are quite subtle and mellow for this one, with a light minty fragrance.

Before we officially concluded the tasting, we were also given 1 flavoured tea to try – Blackforest Tea. This black tea is something I would possibly buy as a gift for others, as it has a very interesting aroma with notes of chocolate, whipped cream and cherry Kirsch and smells totally like a blackforest cake. I would definitely love it with a nice fruit cake on a lazy afternoon.

If you are keen to try any of these teas, Gryphon Tea Company is currently providing a personal doorstep delivery service to customers. Prices range from $38 for White Peony Tea to $78 for Iron Goddess of Mercy Tea. Each tin holds 40-80g of premium single terroir loose tea leaf teas. Orders can be made via telephone at +65 6779 2948 or through email at grandcru@gryphontea.com

Special thanks to Gryphon Tea Company for the invitation!





Nespresso Boutique @ Ion Orchard – Espresso Tasting

25 03 2012

*This tasting was sponsored by Nespresso

There’s been heated debate going on about whether bloggers should accept tasting invitations. One camp argues that an element of bias will be present for invited meals, ruining the creditability of a blog. That’s why I salute the bloggers who choose to stay objective and blog on their experiences in the guise of a full-paying customer. Yet, I find myself still getting excited whenever I receive such invitations, largely because they signal that there are some people around who appreciate the efforts of my late night blogging, which just makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.

So apart from the fact that I need that ego boost as a pick me up sometimes, there are other perks in accepting invitations for workshops and tastings (apart from just the free food that most people tend to associate tastings with). Firstly, its the chance to mingle and befriend other like-minded souls who are equally if not more crazily obsessed with food. Secondly, it’s the chance to interact with industry professionals like chefs, barristas and restaurant staff, where you actually get to learn more about certain aspects of dining that you were previously ignorant about.

I attended a Nespresso Tasting today and am pleased to have fulfilled the above mentioned perks, meeting bloggers from The Silver Chef, sgdessert, Superadrianme and DaintyFlair, in addition to learning more about Espresso appreciation. Nespresso is one of the sponsors of Savour 2012 and this invitation was part of their publicizing efforts. They will be down over next weekend during the Savour 2012 event to host an Espresso appreciation class as well should you be interested to attend.

We were first given a tutorial on what makes a good Espresso and one defining element is the presence of a generous layer of “Crema” or what is seen as the hazelnut coloured froth on the surface of your Espresso. The Crema is formed by a mixture of air and liquid and helps to liberate aromas above the cup after extraction, but once it stabilises, it helps to preserve the aromatic richness present in the Espresso instead. To get the perfect Crema, the water must be hot enough, the water pressure high enough and the coffee fresh and grounded finely enough.

Some interest takeaways I learnt today was that the caffeine present in an Espresso is only about half of that present is a standard 240ml mug of drip coffee and that the intensity (bitterness) of a coffee is defined by its degree of roasting (the longer the roast, the more bitter and intense flavour you get) and has no correlation to the amount of caffeine that is present inside.

I have always associated “Grand Crus” with wines but Nespresso also calls its 16 varieties of coffee as “Grand Cru“, possibly because a coffee’s flavour and tones can be just as complex and varied as wines.

Of the 16 types, 3 are Pure Origin Espressos (meaning the beans are sourced from a single location), 7 are Espresso Blends (meaning beans from several locations are mixed to create a unique flavour), 3 are Lungos (Coffees that are meant to be enjoyed in a large cup instead of a 40ml Espresso shot) and 3 Decaffeinated (consisting 2 Espresso flavours and 1 Lungo). Of the 16, I managed to sample 4 different types of Espressos and 1 Limited Edition Espresso that is no longer on sale.

Our planned tasting was to consist of the 3 Pure Origin Espressos, each with its own unique aroma.

We started off with the mildest Espresso of the lot, Dulsao do Brasil. It is supposed to taste of honey, malt and cereals but apart from being rather smooth and not as bitter as I’d imagine, I had some trouble detecting the sweet undertones. A piece of advice we were given was to slurp our espressos as we do our ramens, so as to allow the espresso to splash with around your tongue and provide a burst of flavour.

For our second Espresso, we tried the fruity Rosabaya de Colombia. In describing coffees, NEVER use the term sour unless you are describing coffee that has turned bad. The appropriate term to use is citrus-sy. I was able to detect light winey tinges in this Espresso, so I was quite happy that my palate wasn’t a total flop after all.

In relation to citrus-sy coffees, one of the bloggers asked how do we differentiate good citrus coffees from bad sour coffee. Given that question, we were given another Espresso Blend to try called Cosi. This was a very light Espresso Blend that wasn’t very bitter. What I discovered about this blend is that I didn’t detect the lemony tones until after swallowing the coffee. So it was more of an aftertaste. For spoilt sour coffees, you will be sure to notice right away once it touches your tastebuds. This was probably my favourite of the 4 coffees, probably because I found the citrus-sy flavours unique and easily discernible.

I’m not one for “Kopi Gao” but if you are, you might want to try the Indriya from India, one of the most intense and bitter Espressos that Nespresso has to offer to kick start your morning. As per the Cosi, I only discovered the intensiveness of the Indriya during the aftertaste, where I was taken by surprise with a bitter blast of flavour, causing my face to cringe. I was not the only one though, as I was keeping my eye on the guest seated next to me who had similar reactions.

I also took a look at the various Nespresso machines on sale. The latest model is the Nespresso Pixie, which is better than previous models because of its compactness and certain extra features such as an auto power-off function to save electricity and a light indicator to signal the current level of water in the machine and when it is time to top up with more water.

Truthfully, I always stick to my lattes and cappuccinos, and have often steered clear of espressos, scared that the bitterness will overwhelm me so I was pleased that this tasting gave me a chance to discover the depths of Espresso appreciation that I have yet to unravel.

Special thanks to Nespresso and Crowd PR for hosting the Espresso tasting.

Nespresso Boutique

2 Orchard Turn, #01-14 Ion Orchard





Culinary Workshop @ Din Tai Fung Paragon

8 05 2011

*This workshop was sponsored by Dai Tai Fung

Originating in Taiwan originally, Din Tai Fung has since expanded around the world and was awarded a Michelin 1 Star in Hong Kong’s 2010 Michelin Guide. It’s secret to success…no doubt their renowned Xiao Long Baos.

The Din Tai Fung branches found in Singapore is franchised by the Breadtalk Group (who is also responsible for franchising Carl’s Junior and Ramenplay, in addition to owning Toastbox, Bread Society and Food Republic), and the chefs here are apparently required to undergo a 9-month vigorous training program in Taiwan to ensure that standards of the franchisees remain on par with the Taiwan and Hong Kong branches.

With regards to their Xiao Long Baos, strict guidelines have been set such that the xiao long bao skins must be within 5.8g to 6.2g and there must be 18 folds on each xiao long bao.

We were first given a demonstration with explanation on the ingredients used to make the Xiao Long Baos and how to fold the 18 folds.

After the mass demonstration, it was time for a hands-on! Each table of 4 participants were allocated with a personal Xiao Long Bao instructor to guide us in making the highly elusive 18 folds. I failed miserably 😦

After which, we were treated to high tea, a 10-course one at that!

Cucumber wrapped in Pork Belly in Chili Oil.

The Caucasian lady sitting on my table mentioned that this was her son’s favourite dish at Din Tai Fung. It’s not difficult to see why with the generous stuffing of springy shrimps in this dim sum inspired Shrimp Pancake.

Din Tai Fung is also famous for their Ginseng Chicken Soup which packs some umami flavour though I still think that it lacks the appeal of a home-made soup showered with motherly love.

Xiao Long Baos here are definitely competent but there are competitors around whom I actually prefer. They are Swee Choon Dim Sum Restaurant and Hand in Hand Beijing Restaurant, both located along Jalan Besar.

The Black Truffle Xiao Long Bao is only available at 2 Din Tai Fung outlets in Singapore (Paragon and 1 other outlet which I can’t recall now). I’m not sure if something is wrong with me but truffles don’t appeal to me much, so I’d much prefer the original Pork Xiao Long Baos which doesn’t come with such an earthly taste. On the other hand, the Caucasian women sitting next to me were deeply enamoured by the robust flavours bursting from the truffle xlb. To each his own I guess.

Pea Shoots stir fried with Sunflower Oil.

Dan Dan Noodles.

Snow Fungus with Red Dates and Papaya.

This is the first culinary workshop I have attended and I have to say it’s really good fun.

On a side note, Din Tai Fung will also be flying in Red Bean Rice Dumplings from Taiwan in celebration of the Dragon Boat Festival. It will be sold at $4 per dumpling from 9 May to 6th June 2011, and DBS/POSB Card holders will enjoy a complimentary dumpling with minimum spending of $50. 

A very special thanks to Din Tai Fung for the invitation.

Bon Appetit!

DIN TAI FUNG

290 ORCHARD ROAD, #B1-03 THE PARAGON

TEL: +65 6836 8336








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