Tasting Notes: Katie Exton, Sommelier and Co-Founder of Lorne Restaurant

Coming from The River Café, Katie Exton is a highly respected sommelier, both within and outside the trade. Before joining The River Café, Katie worked as Head Sommelier at Chez Bruce and The Square, where she met chef Peter Hall.

The pair later went on to found the highly successful restaurant, Lorne in 2017. Lorne Restaurant was born out of the desire by its dynamic and experienced co-founders to share their love of restaurants and create a fun, convivial space where food and wine sit as equals.

Jasmine Sparkling Tea

Pale lemon-lime colour- its smells extremely aromatic, lots of floral notes from the jasmine with notes of apple sherbet, elderflower, touch of musk and vanilla on the finish. Very perfumed. Light and delicate in body, noticeable touch of sweetness to the drink. Lots of aromas carry through onto palate, lemon and elderflower, with jasmine. There's a light and exotic feel to this drink. Definite noticeable sweetness.

I would serve this quite cold, it's a good soft drink for an aperitif or for people with a sweeter tooth, a nice alternative for a prosecco drinker. To pair with food, that little sweetness would work so well with spicy and salty foods. I would love to have this with a spicy Asian style salad. A Vietnamese salad with the soy, fish sauce and chilli dressing would work so well with this. It would also be great with desserts. A simple poached pear with crumbled almond biscuit and vanilla ice cream would be easy to prepare at home right now and would be yummy with this.

Darjeeling Sparkling Tea

This one has the most recognisable tea character- typical black leaf iced tea with notes of peach, blossom honey, orange, ginger, buttered toast and a small hint of earth/woodiness on the finish. Smells really great and has a lot of complexity. All the same flavours carry through on to palate. The sparkling nature of the drink keeps things refreshing but there's real length and depth of flavour too. There is a nice little bit of tannin on the finish, which makes the tea so food friendly. It's complex enough that I find myself really taking my time to enjoy and savour it and not drink it too quickly, which I think is a sign of a really good non-alcoholic drink.  

This drink was so food friendly. It worked well with charcuterie, it was lovely with chicken tagine, it also tasted great with lasagne. Every time the drink was refreshing and delicate enough not to clash with any of the ingredients or flavours from the food and had these lovely peach and orange fruity notes but with a refreshing not savoury but also not sweet finish. It also worked with chocolate, where it tasted quite malty and caramelly.

Hojicha Sparkling Tea

This one was such a surprise when I smelt it. Definitely has oolong-like characters - this has got to be a marmite drink, I mean it literally has almost marmite-esque characters, it's a total umami bomb. This has such character and presence, it's definitely different - I can imagine this working well for a beer drinker or for people who do not like sweet drinks - it smells so savoury. The hojicha sparkling tea is bursting with aromas and of nori seaweed, dried porcini mushrooms, a delicate smoke, earth and woody forest floor notes. This drink has a fascinating bouquet, the aromas are not strong in an overbearing way but have such presence, that I just keep smelling this again and again. I actually prefer this a little warmer than the other two, it felt a bit rounder and richer when it's not so cold. To taste it's still fresh and has iced tea peach fruit character but those savoury umami notes of seaweed and smoke carry through onto the palate too. This has real body and depth.

Again, this worked well with food, but the stronger character of the tea and the smoky aspect allows it to pair with stronger flavoured foods. We liked this with oxtail stew and mushroom risotto. This would be great with BBQ vegetables or meat and I think this would be the one I'd like to have with smoked fish or sushi. The briney, nutty characters of drink would go well with both the raw fish and also any seaweed/nori.