The Lunar New Year has many traditions, each equally as important as the other. The 16 days of celebration include everything from a fireworks display to lavish feasts, but for many the occasion begins with an intimate tea ceremony at home. On the first day of the Lunar New Year, the household’s eldest generation is invited to sit in the dining table’s dominant chairs and are offered sweet tea and well wishes for the new year by the youngest. It is a formal occasion steeped in etiquette, tradition and ritual: three pillars that also define Rémy Martin. The House of Rémy Martin, situated in the heart of France’s Cognac region, is a long way from China, but the luxury cognac brand has found a kindred spirit in one of the country’s most treasured occasions. From the expertise of the tea master to the intricacies of brewing, by the time tea is poured and appreciated, it has been on a very similar journey to a glass of Rémy Martin cognac.
Defined by terroirs
The culture of tea and cognac production has been defined and refined over centuries of experimentation and continued practice, but the success of both is down to their respective terroirs. It is the ideal weather and soil conditions of the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions that provide Rémy Martin the perfect grapes for eau de vie. Notably, and a true defining characteristic of the house, Rémy Martin sources its eaux de vie exclusively from these two regions. When the grapes ripen, it is a race against time to locate and harvest the picks of the bunch. Similarly, there is a short window for harvesting tea leaves, with pickers having to work fast but delicately before sunrise to ensure the integrity of the plant is of the highest possible quality. Despite the delicacy of the produce and the unpredictability of each harvest, these areas are the center of the world for their respective industries.
There are few jobs in the world that require more training than the Rémy Martin cellar master, Baptiste Loiseau. Baptiste has refined his special combination of skills over decades and was offered the chance to continue the work of his predecessors in 2014, becoming the youngest individual to be appointed this rank in all of Cognac.
Some eau de vie can take up to a century to reach its peak, so the cellar master has to be perfectly in tune with someone they may have never met. They must understand why the liquid was laid down in such a way and decide the perfect moment to add it to the majestic Rémy Martin blend. Equally, they must make sure future generations can continue their own legacy in a century’s time. This is not a job you can go into lightly – it is a lifetime commitment.
The same level of commitment and expertise is required of any tea master. They not only guard the heritage of their house but also protect its future. A tea master must be in tune with the incredibly complex interactions between the weather, the soil and the tea plant to know the exact time to harvest. It is a unique set of skills that can be refined only with a combination of thousands of years of knowledge from previous generations and decades of personal experience.
When a drop of cognac reaches the palate, it brings an end to an extraordinary journey that has crossed multiple generations. It is a liquid time capsule, holding stories of the vineyard where the grapes were grown and the barrel it was aged in.
Time is also important when it comes to taste. Tea leaves require the right amount of water at the correct temperature. The brewing time is crucial, allowing just enough time to let the tea leaves infuse appropriately. It is no wonder the ceremony has developed so many intricate traditions.
Cognac also requires patience and respect in order to fulfill its full potential. It does not need to be swirled to open up the liquid; the notes are bursting out from the moment it is poured. Conversely, it is your own senses that need to be opened up. As you draw your nose closer, the complexity begins to reveal itself. Even the tiniest of sips brings these flavors together in an explosion on the palate. The tasting notes reveal the personal expression of the cellar master who once declared it was not ready yet and their successor who, years later, decided that it was.
Just like Rémy Martin XO, the Lunar New Year tea ceremony appreciates the work of past generations. To truly appreciate the notes of the tea leaves, you need to ensure the pot and mug are of the highest quality. That is why the House of Rémy Martin has developed a high-tea gift set to celebrate the Year of the Ox. The set features a luxury glass tea set, presented in a red and gold wooden coffret that can also be used as a tea service tray. Although ideal for serving tea during Lunar New Year celebrations, the set also invites you to try new ways of blending these two cultures – for example, a tea cocktail served in a teacup.
Learn more at remymartin.com.