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It's a typical afternoon at Sketch, one of London's most exclusive restaurants. Executives are gathered in the Parlour, Sketch's airy drawing room, sipping aromatic jasmine white tea and Ciu Yu blue green tea, selected by French master chef Pierre Gagnaire. In contrast to an evening wine bar, the conversation is quiet and purposeful; there's a sense that business is in progress. Ask Fisun Tasgin, manager of the Parlour, what it's all about and she'll tell you tea drinking is a statement. "The tea room is a refined, upscale, quality-oriented space," she says. "It says a better thing about your business than the average wine bar."
The trend is also catching on in die US. Ringo Lo is tea master at The Mark hotel in New York. Lo came from The Peninsula Hong Kong with an extensive knowledge of tea and how it should be served. He says he can cater towards particular moods--a pick-me-up to motivate a group, or a soothing tea to quell awkward negotiations. But most importantly, he upholds the importance of quality. "Much restaurant tea is mere floor sweepings," he says.
What happened to oiling the wheels of business with a couple of good bottles of vintage? "When tea is the only drink on offer, it takes the pressure off people to drink alcohol," says Bill Gorman, executive director of the Tea Council in the UK. "For business meetings, tea is perfect--there is a great sense of sharing in drinking out of the same pot. The taking of afternoon tea lends itself to a relaxed environment. People are in a comfortable seating arrangement, in slouchy chairs, rather …