The Art of Pairing Tea with Fine Foods
Pairing food with specialty tea is an essential aspect of the traditional tea experience and can enhance your enjoyment of tea — if that’s possible! Pairing premium loose-leaf tea with fine food is a luxurious experience that offers a new dimension of taste and enjoyment to someone who has never tried this before. While many in the west are familiar with pairing wine with food, pairing tea with food is a newer concept that is gaining popularity among food and tea lovers. The art of pairing tea with food requires a good understanding of tea’s different flavours and aromas and how they interact with different ingredients.
One of the benefits of pairing tea with food is that it offers a unique opportunity to enjoy the subtleties and complexities of different loose-leaf teas. For example, delicate green tea with a refreshing flavour perfectly matches a sushi or grilled fish dish. On the other hand, full-bodied black tea with a strong flavour and bold aroma is the ideal pairing for a hearty steak or roast beef.
The key to a successful tea and food pairing is to consider the flavour profiles of both the tea and the food and how they can complement each other. With the many different types of tea, the variety has its own unique flavour profile and characteristics.
What food pairs well with tea?
We asked an expert. Cheryl Teo of Flag & Spear is a Melbourne-based tea enthusiast, educator, and self-confessed tea nerd. During her extensive studies and travels exploring the world of tea, she has combined her love for tea with the pairing of tea with fine foods and is considered quite the connoisseur.
Cheryl says, “One trick that I commonly use for tea and food pairing is the concept of ‘flavour bridges’. For this method, I pick out a dominant flavour perceived in the tea (by smelling the dry and wet tea leaves and tasting the tea liquor). I then use that flavour as if it was an ingredient. For example, I may wish to pair an oolong tea that has a strong peach characteristic with a salad. I would then look up salad recipes containing peaches to get ideas for what ingredients would pair well with the tea. The main thing with tea & food pairing is to just give it a go and experiment.”
In simple terms, many foods pair well with tea, including:
- Snacks — crackers, nuts, and biscuits
- Sandwiches — such as egg or cucumber
- Sweets — cakes, tarts, macaroons, scones with jam and cream
- Baked goods — croissants and muffins
- Savoury — quiche, savoury scones, toast, eggs, roasts and steaks
The type of tea also plays a role in pairing. For example, black tea is known for its bold flavour and strong aroma, making it a good match for rich and flavorful foods, such as grilled meats, roasted vegetables, and hearty stews. Green tea, on the other hand, is known for its light and refreshing flavour, making it a good match for lighter dishes, such as salads, sushi, and grilled fish. With its delicate flavours and light aroma, white tea matches light and fresh dishes, such as fresh fruit, seafood, and delicate desserts.
When selecting food to pair with tea, it is essential to consider your personal taste and preferences, as well as the flavour and strength of the tea. For example, a rich tea full of flavour, such as Rujani Tea’s Smoky Ecstasy, pairs well with a hearty scone, while our CTC Royale Chai is complemented by a sweet cake or biscuit. Our bold, full-bodied Assam teas and our unique Muscatel match perfectly with a savoury snack such as quiche or savoury scones, which can help balance the strong, robust tea flavour and provide a satisfying contrast. On the other hand, a lighter green tea, such as our Rose Green, is perfect with delicate, subtle flavours, such as a light pastry, fruit tart, or fresh cucumber sandwiches.
Tea and food pairing traditions.
Tea is steeped in tradition and has been paired with food for centuries in the Far East to enhance the tea-drinking experience. Here are some reasons why:
Social Tradition — Pairing tea with food is a social tradition that has been passed down through generations. It has become an essential part of tea culture, adding a ritualistic aspect to the tea-drinking experience.
Balance — Tea varieties have different flavour profiles and strengths. Pairing the right food with the right tea can help balance its flavour and enhance the overall experience.
Textural Contrast — A particular food’s texture can provide a nice contrast to tea’s smooth, silky texture. For example, a flaky croissant can complement a warm cup of tea, while a crunchy biscuit can balance the smoothness of a sweet herbal tea.
Complementary Flavours — Certain foods have complementary flavours that enhance the tea taste. For example, sweet pastries complement a strong black tea, while light sandwiches balance a delicate green tea. When selecting tea to pair with food, it is essential to consider its intensity and flavours. For example, a tea with a bold, earthy flavour profile is an excellent match for a dish with a similar flavour profile, such as a hearty stew or a rich and savoury sauce. Conversely, a tea with a delicate, floral flavour profile is a good match for a light and refreshing dish, such as a salad or a fresh seafood dish.
The temperature of the tea also plays a role in pairing. For example, warm tea matches a warm dish well, such as a hot soup or a hearty stew. On the other hand, a cool tea is a good match for a cool dish, such as a chilled salad or a fresh seafood dish. The tea's and the food's temperature should complement each other and create a harmonious balance between the flavours and aromas.
Pairing food with tea is a fantastic way to enhance the tea-drinking experience, adding balance, complementary flavours, textural contrast, and social tradition.
Ultimately, the best food to pair with tea is a matter of personal preference. Experimenting with different food and tea combinations can help you discover your own favourite pairings.
In conclusion, pairing premium loose-leaf tea with fine food is a unique and enjoyable experience that offers a new dimension of taste and enjoyment. By considering the flavour profiles, type, aroma, and temperature of both the tea and the food, you can create a harmonious balance between the two that will enhance your dining experience. Whether you are a fine food connoisseur or a tea aficionado, pairing tea with food is an experience you won’t miss.
So, the next time you prepare a meal, consider adding a cup of premium loose-leaf tea to your dining table and discover a new world of flavour and enjoyment. What a great excuse to experiment with tea varieties and drink more tea!
Enjoy your cuppa!