To truly experience teatime like an aristocrat, you’ll want to sip on The Rubens Golden Tips Tea while looking out over The Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace

At the swanky Rubens at the Palace, a pot of said tea is priced at a cool £500 (S$838), making it the most expensive tea in the United Kingdom. To make your money’s worth, you’ll get a glass of champagne, freshly baked scones, an assortment of pastries and elegant finger sandwiches to go with it.

Why the extravagant price tag? The hotel’s spokesman explained that Golden Tips tea is not only rare, but its production is entirely natural and, thus, slow. Few estates plant these bushes, which must be tended to for about seven years before their silvery buds yield mature, fuzzy tips that are ripe for the picking.

This slow growth can be attributed to the cool climate of the Sri Lankan highlands where the tea is grown. The mild weather translates to a longer time for flavour to develop on the bush. When ready, only the fine tips are picked and then sundried on a swathe of velvet cloth until they turn from silver to gold. After that, it’s off to market.   

The premium also stems from the fact that it takes five kilograms of buds to yield a single kilogram of the tea. To put its rarity in perspective, out of Sri Lanka’s annual production of 300 million kilograms of tea, less than 100 kilograms comprise the Golden Tips variety—even less after the tips are sifted and the less-than-excellent among them eliminated.

As early as 1891, a pound of Ceylon Golden Tips tea was sold in London for the equivalent of £1,260. Today, £500 gets you a pot of the liquid gold that will fill three teacups.

The brewing of the tea is a craft itself. Suffice to say, “it’s not simply a process of boiling a kettle and sticking a tea bag in a cup,” said the hotel’s spokesperson via email. “The whole experience takes guests on an extraordinary white-glove service, using gold tweezers to pick and weigh the leaves with precision.” The tea is prepared using natural still water, which is boiled and used to infuse the leaves.

In the three minutes that it takes for the tea to steep in its silver teapot, the server will explain the origins, production and rarity of the tea, and discuss tasting notes with its consumer. The tea is said to harbour delicate fruity notes which change with each infusion.

After that, there’s little else to do but sit back and savour the price of your liquid gold. Wondering if the Queen is doing the same across the street is optional.

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