Baccarat Hotel’s Tea Sommelier shares her memories of Afternoon Tea in New York City.
Gabrielle Jammal, the Tea Sommelier at the Baccarat Hotel in NY, is welcoming Esprit de Baccarat’s Editor into her domain — the Grand Salon where the Afternoon Tea has already become a tradition. While she is advising some guests on their tea selection, she is sitting with us to share her earliest experience of tea, and what makes Afternoon Tea a memory for all.
Editor: The Grand Salon is such a unique space to enjoy Afternoon Tea, from the glass panels to the crystal chandeliers, to the plush sofas to the artwork. Is it where your tea journey started?
I grew up spending about half my childhood around my mother’s parents. My Grandmother was British and instilled lunch at 2pm with tea, always tea. Always a large porcelain pot filled with a handful of Lipton tea bags, always with milk and sugar. It was just the way it was.
Editor: This tea experience is unique, and shows that what matters is the memory. You have expanded your tea knowledge, without losing this early connection.
As I got older I became very interested in health, wellness and organic living. I found myself working with Teavana for about 4 years. It felt like I was the doctor helping cure people’s ailments of the day. It made me feel really good to know that I could help make people feel better. It was a big eye opener for me. I’ve always loved learning. If you ask anyone who knows me they say I ask too many questions, I always want to know “why?” . Tea, like wine, is amazing, there’s always something to learn, always a tea you haven’t tasted tucked in a far corner of a world you’ve never been before. Last year I was certified with the International Tea Masters Association.
Editor: It seems that you went through a journey from your mother's tea to becoming a Tea Sommelier. What is your next step?
I found out that Christopher Day, who I have admired, also took the course. I had been researching him and the amazing job that he was doing with tea at Eleven Madison Park; tea pairings, table side service, educating the staff and guests about something that seems so basic to most people. It really inspired me to work hard to make the tea program here something that people fall in love with.
When I first interviewed here and I was told that the tea program was to be based off the clientele list of Baccarat and Mariage Freres I thought, “this would be truly special and something I want to have a role in." Right now our tea menu consists of King Louis XV, our founder, and The Prince of Wales. I am hoping that we will have our third member debuted very soon.
Editor: We are here in the Grand Salon of the Baccarat Hotel, a modern version of the Gallerie des Glaces in the middle of New York. How do you share your tea experience so your guest leaves with a memory?
Our hotel is of course beautiful and one of a kind BUT it is the heart, in this case, the Grand Salon, of the hotel and the parts that make it work that I feel really have a big influence on our guests. It’s like most homes where the kitchen seems to always be the focal point. The staff here helps to make the hotel warm and welcoming and that is exactly what it should be like when you come for an experience here, especially tea. I work to train our staff and share my knowledge (and tea!) so they can be as excited as I am.
Afternoon tea is something that has always been considered a luxury, particularly here along 5th Avenue in Manhattan. The difference here is that we pay close attention to each table and each person to make it a memorable experience. I want people to come here and feel like they are coming “home”. I want them to feel comfortable and welcome and even feel like they tried something different even though they’ve been here ten times before.
Photography courtest of Egg Canvas and Evan Sung Photography.