Musings on Ipoh Food

By SeeFoon Chan-Koppen

When you’re faced with 140 different kinds of tea, it is easy to become dazed by the plethora of choices and options and if it wasn’t for the enthusiastic intervention of Aven Ng, I would have had no clue as to what to order. As we were a group of five, it was easy to settle for a tasting of five different teas on the recommendation of Aven who is one of the partners in this newly-opened Tea & Tattle Cafe in De Garden.

Aven who is a self-professed tea “fetishist”, is a walking encyclopaedia on tea, and as I thumbed through the voluminous tea tome masquerading as a tea menu under the title of Premium Tea List, I was impressed by the useful information given in each section, that provides a tea novice like myself some guidelines as to the differences between Black, Green, White, Oolong and Rooibos. There is also a tempting list of Wellness and Herbal infusions for those who are into healthy brews. Readers of this column will have to go to Tea & Tattle and read up and sample for themselves as space limitations dictate here and I have to move on to describing the various tastes!

Although tea is the main offering at Tea & Tattle, coffee lovers need not panic as Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees are available. But back to the tea, the name and concept cleverly developed by two brothers James and Aven Ng and a third partner Arik Chew and one or two others who have chosen to remain in the background and who each contribute their specialty knowledge into making the whole place gel together. Like the Chef, Jeff Thong who has patiently endured hours of experimenting in the kitchen, adopting some startling fusion combinations and change his plating skills to get a dish just right. Or the patissier, Ipoh boy Ah Leong who had to throw out all his previous recipes and embrace new ones, resulting in ethereal creations for which even a die-hard non dessert eater like myself had to succumb. Like the ‘Snowflakes’, a featherlight coconut cream cake, topped with dessicated coconut and served with coconut ice cream; or the Oreo Cheesecake with double chocolate ice; or have you ever heard of Strawberry Nachos? Where you’re expecting a cheese dip, instead you get chopped strawberries marinated in 7-year-old Balsamic vinegar (which for some unknown alchemical reason, releases the flavour and sweetness in the strawberries and instead of more tartness, the strawberries are more flavourful and sweet) served with crispy thin cookies passing as nachos.

But I digress. Back to the teas. And Tattle.

What better background for a good tattle than good ole’ mouldy oldies from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and a host of others, six-hours-long of recorded music from the jazz era, music that warms the heart and loosens the tongue. All of Tea & Tattle’s teas come from the USA, Europe or S. America. Their best blends are all winners at the North American Tea Championships and detailed descriptions of each in their tea menu speaks volumes about Aven’s love of tea.

Still on the subject of tea, the brewing pots are very special and have to be sampled, as words defy description. The whole tea service is a ritual, coming with its own miniature hour-glass timer; a 3-minute timer for Green tea, a 5-minute for Black and a 7-minute one for herbal infusions. The pot may be replenished with hot water an unlimited number of times with some of the teas actually tasting better and mellower with each successive steeping, some up to three or four times. Unlike a lot of other cafes where the crockery is just thrown together haphazardly, the tea cups too are special here, all hand blown double glass to keep the heat, running a risk of easy breakage and yet a delicate touch that shows the dedication of the proprietors to true quality service.

And while here enjoying your teas, have your breakfast, lunch or dinner at a leisurely pace. You can have an all-day breakfast no matter the time of day. Choose an Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon, served with asparagus spears – RM16.80; or the Italian Baked Eggs, two eggs baked in a marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella, parmesan and basil and served with crusty bread – yummilicious at RM14.80; and wash it down with Sweet Memories, a green jasmine and white peony tea blended with rosebuds containing lychee essence and osmanthus, the most popular tea served here and which took second place in the North American Tea Championship in 2012 – RM10.80.

A ‘must-have’ here is their Air Fried Chips. Order it as a standalone snack – RM8.80 or have it come with your burgers, or your pressed sandwiches. These chips (more like wedges) which are crispy and salted just right and with nary a hint of oil (great for you dieters out there who love chips) have to be eaten piping hot, dipped into either a Sriracha Dip (I had to ask for extra Sriracha as mine was not spicy enough) or cheese sauce. It is useful to point out here that the Sriracha sauce here is the American variety, produced in USA and not the gooey sweet variety found locally or in Thailand.

For mains, Aven is especially proud of their Strawberry Glazed Salmon, a salmon steak marinated in strawberry compote, baked to perfection and served on a bed of strawberry salsa. Strange bedfellows, some may say, yet it appears to be one that is made in heaven judging by the oohs and ahhs at the table when we tucked in. And a final taste note, the two salmon dishes I tried, another with a garlic dill sauce, was cooked just right, not dry and overdone as I’ve experienced elsewhere – RM37.80 & RM35.80.

I could wax lyrical about their stuffed paninis, their Etouffee (a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisine typically served with shellfish over rice. The name which means smothering in French describes the thick sauce which is served with it) and their Gelatomio Italian ice creams which are 99% fat free, but I won’t. What I will suggest is for you dear reader, to go and sip tea, swoon over the music and satiate on small or large bites.

Tea & Tattle, for talk, tea and taste.

Tea & Tattle (Pork Free)
G-R 17 & 18A, De Garden
No. 3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh, Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh.
Tel: 05 548 7899
Business Hours: Mon-Thur – 8am-11pm; Fri-Sun – 8am-midnight.