Buenos Aires for Visitors
You heard us. Hip porteños are getting into… afternoon tea. Dan Perlman reports.
It’s a regular refrain we hear from visitors, “I just assumed with the Italian influence that I could get a good espresso here… so where can I find one?” It’s a good question. Make no mistake, porteños have the raw materials – quality coffee beans and equipment are readily available in BA. But strangely enough, it’s actually easier to find a good cup of tea.
We’re not talking about your basic orange pekoe in a bag. Yes, many, if not most places, use teabags, but there are some great local producers of teas and tea blends, including well known brands like Inti-Zen, Cachamai, Evy, and Gold Beginning. Higher-end restaurants often offer a selection, ranging from basic black or green, on up to various fruit and herbal blends.
Anyone can enjoy the simple but sublime pleasure of a cup of tea, the true tea aficionado, however, will appreciate the services of our own local tea guru, Inés Berton In addition to running her world class tea blending company, Tealosophy, she’s also the force behind Inti-Zen, and the soon-to-be-introduced Chamán herbal blends.
Ms. Berton is a returned porteña who grew up in BA and initially trained as a perfume blender; she later switched gears to pursue her passion for tea. She has worked in Paris, London, and New York, blending teas for some of the top importers, and notably, she’s served as personal blender to the King and Queen of Spain, as well as to the Dalai Lama. She’s a tireless world traveler who goes straight to the source, standing in the tea fields in southern China supervising the picking of only the best leaves, herbs from southern France, and vanilla from Madagascar. Most recently, a month working with herb-picking shamans in the highlands of Perú. It’s impossible to sit down with her and not come away passionate about drinking tea – her enthusiasm is infectious, and her shop, at No. 37 in the promenade alongside the Hotel Alvear, along with it’s attached tea salon, is a scented heaven.
Working with virtually every top hotel, and many of the best restaurants in the city, Berton creates custom blends for each customer, working with the venue’s chef to come up with flavors that fit the tenor of the cuisine. As one of only 11 acknowledged “tea blenders” in the world, she’s much in demand.
So where does Ms. Berton recommend “taking tea”? She advocates the elegant experience of a full afternoon tea at hotels like the Alvear, the Cesar Park, and the Park Hyatt – where, come 5pm, the salons fill with the dedicated chamomile-swillers. After a brief tour of hotel-hosted teas, we’d tout the amazing experience of taking tea at the Alvear in particular – the house blended almond tea is a true eye-opener, and if you think you know what Earl Grey is all about, think again.
Looking for something more low key? For more casual venues, Ms. Berton has some suggestions too. She’s particularly fond of Tea Connection (corner of Uriburu and Pacheco de Melo), where more than a dozen blends of teas stack up well against the kitchen’s wonderful selection of fresh sandwiches, tarts, scones, and salads. Mark’s Deli (El Salvador 4701 in Palermo Viejo) is another of her favorites along with i Fresh Market in Puerto Madero.
In mid-2006, I started writing for Time Out Buenos Aires. With changes in their way of conducting business, I decided to part company with them after my last article and set of reviews in mid-2009.