This is an excerpt from the January/February issue of Tea MagazineTM
Celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson has always been a fan of tea. Now, the Top Chef champion, James Beard Award winner, and presidential dinner-cooking Samuelsson has decided to bring his experience with tea to his fans and customers at Red Rooster and Ginny Supper Club, his restaurants in Harlem, New York.
Enter Ambessa, the new tea line Samuelsson has developed with Harney & Sons. Ambessa means lion in Amharic, the native language of Ethiopia.
“Tea was always in the cards from day one,” said Samuelsson. “It’s part of the restaurant in every sense, from the bar to sipping a cup to cooking with it.”
At Red Rooster you can try a beautifully steeped Ambessa tea, have it in one of their custom cocktails, or taste it in special dishes. This expansion into tea is in line with Samuelsson’s push to brand himself in all sorts of ways, from vodka to books to his professionally-run blog called Food Republic. But with tea, it goes beyond just attaching his name. Tea holds a personal connection for the 42-year-old chef.
The first memory of tea Samuelsson has comes from his childhood in Gothenburg, Sweden. He and his adopted father Lennart would brew cups of Earl Grey together on most nights, around 9:30 p.m., and then settle down to watch sports or a television show before bed.
“I remember cold nights when you just huddled up and had a toasted sandwich and a cup of black tea,” said Samuelsson. “It’s not like in England; it’s very simple.”
Another strong memory stems from the first time he visited his birth country, Ethiopia. There, everywhere he went they offered him cups of tea — especially if he was in the market and about to make a purchase.
“When you go to a small shack in Africa, they always have tea,” he said. “So, I thought I could take the essence of Africa and create these fun combinations of tea here.”
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