Despite four tea-soaked years as an employee of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and mandatory daily “elevenses” with my coworkers, I never managed to fully embrace the old “Rosy Lee” as a thing in my life. But during a recent lunch with friends from Monaco at Alain Ducasse’s New York City bistro, Benoit, I felt something shift. The meal concluded with a cup of tea—white tea, no less, the delicate antithesis of my usual morning sludge—and my eyes opened. It’s a special blend from Kusmi Tea, created by Ducasse himself on the occasion of the Paris-based tea maker’s 150th anniversary. And it was tasty enough to make this committed coffee-in-a-paper-cup type stick out his pinkie finger.
Apart from the Monégasque chef’s deft influsion of green tea leaves and hints of rose petal and raspberry, this particular blend is noteworthy because it happens to be Kusmi’s first-ever white tea, made from the earliest buds and leaves that sprout each spring. There’s a small window of opportunity for pickers to get this stuff, and the harvest happens only once each season, so there’s a real sense of occasion here. Even so, as a beverage, white tea has always a seemed little timid and homeopathic to me, but Kusmi’s Ducasse pale blend makes a complex and satisfying cup.
Ducasse’s “Le Thé Blanc” is available in an artful 4.3-ounce white canister ($49, or $71 with a matching mug) online or in the company’s aromatic boutique stores, or by the teabag at one of Ducasse’s restaurants (you really must). For home brewing, Kusmi suggests a three-minute steep in water heated to exactly 175 degrees Fahrenheit. An extended pinkie finger is optional.