Watching Jingxing Gao prepare a tea ceremony at the new G & Tea is mesmerising. She places small ceramic cups in a precise row next to a glass vessel and bamboo strainer, and then puts a dish of tea leaves and pots of hot water on the small bespoke timber tea table. The tea master then begins the first of some 21 steps.

“I show guests the dried tea leaves, let them smell and look at the shape and colour,” she says. “Then I add the leaves to a warm, dry tea pot, and the humidity wakes up the tea. After washing the leaves the first infusion begins.”

That initial potful is light and subtle. “It’s the first time the tea gets into the hot water, so it hasn’t expanded and the colour is pale, but you can already smell the aroma. The second and third round will give you the most heavy flavour. It’s really nice; the colour is deeper and the taste much stronger.”

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Each tea has a different preparation method and some, like the Yellow Gold Bud by TWG Tea – a rare yellow tea that’s hand-coated in 24-karat gold and retails at G & Tea for $120 a pot – run the risk of being forgotten. “It used to be that the techniques were passed down from father to son, so if the family only had daughters it wouldn’t be passed down. But in modern cities, if you have a person who wants to learn, the mentor will teach you.” Gao’s first mentor was her father, who owned a teashop in China.

Gao runs Gong Fu Tea Ceremonies at The Star’s latest venue – a 74-seat teahouse by day and gin bar by night, located on the ground level of Astral Tower hotel.

While the sun is up punters can make their way through an extensive artisanal tea range that varies in price and taste: from those expensive shimmering platinum-coloured gold buds – the most expensive white tea in Sydney – to Chinese, herbal and classic black varieties such as Earl Grey and Assam Breakfast. Enjoy them with fancy sandwiches that include smoked ham hock and Gruyere, or a gin-cured Tasmanian ocean trout with shaved fennel, chives, finger lime and a yuzu emulsion.

At night the tea service is packed away and the room morphs into a gin bar with a tea focus. “The transition happens subtly,” says manager Julie Ann Poole. “The lights and music change and we bring the outdoors inside with a digital display board.”

Ten LED screens framed in gold line the wall behind rose velvet banquet seats. During the day the screens show a lush rainforest canopy, while at night fireflies mingle under purple and navy moonlight. It could be tacky but the effect is pretty and soothing.

By 4pm cocktail hour has begun. There’s a Green Tea Mojito (green tea, Tanqueray, basil seeds, soda and mint), a Passionfruit Green Tea Whiskey, and a Tea Tini (green apple hibiscus tea, Ink Gin, vermouth, lemon peel) that alters its colour from purple to pink with the addition of tonic and lemon.

The marriage of tea and gin might seem incongruous, but Gao says it allows the venue to cater to lots of different tastes. “A teahouse has always been missing at The Star and so far it’s been really well received by our customers,” she says.

G & Tea
Ground Floor, Astral Hotel, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont

Daily 6.30am–11pm

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on January 29, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.