Many tea traditions include both tea and food. With tea having such an interesting and diverse flavour profile, tea and food have always been excellent companions. The aim when pairing them together, is to find a combination that enhances both the flavour of the tea and the dish, thus achieving balance. In order to be able to achieve this balance, you first need to know about the different types of tea there are available for your pairings.
There are five different types of tea that originate from the Camellia Sinensis plant, which are: white, green, oolong, pu-erh, and black tea. The differences between these teas is dependant on their level of oxidation and fermentation. Another type of tea that is also available are tisanes, which are herbal infusions that are sweet and free of caffeine, such as Rooibos tea.
Guidelines for pairing tea
Firstly, it’s important to match the intensity of your tea to the level of your meal. The flavour of the tea can be overpowered by that of your food. White teas for example, are a lighter type of tea, so will pair perfectly with lighter foods. Black teas, which have a bit more weight and potency to them, will pair well with a heartier meal.
The second thing to consider when pairing teas and food, is to make sure the flavour profiles of both, are complimentary to each other. The flavours need to function well together so that they create a balance for your palette and enhance your dining experience.
A third element you need to thing about when creating your pairings, is the water temperature used when steeping your tea. If the water is too hot or the tea leaves are steeped for too long, then you will end up scorching the leaves, resulting in a brew with an acrid and bitter taste that will not pair well with anything.
Examples of tea pairings
Black teas tend to have a more bold and robust flavour to them, so these will pair well with rich foods like roasted red meats such as lamb and beef, or desserts made with an indulgent chocolate.
Green teas have an earthy palette which pair perfectly with vegetarian dishes like plant-based salads or a mild green curry.
White teas as mentioned earlier, have a gentle flavour profile, meaning they pair nicely with very light foods such as a white fish like sea bass or a sweet panna cotta.
Oolong teas usually have a smoky and complex essence, which combines beautifully with diches rich in herbs or smoked cheeses and meats.
Pu-erh teas with their complex levels of flavour, are a great palette cleanser and are traditionally enjoyed after a meal, such as dim sum.
Herbal teas couple excellently with elaborate desserts and cakes, due to their floral and aromatic taste.
When it comes to pairing food with teas, a traditional afternoon tea party is also a great source of inspiration for your creations. Such as, a simple finger sandwich filled with some fresh avocado and salmon, or a delicious cream cheese would pair well with a great green tea. Sticking with tradition, how about pairing some lovely scones, clotted cream, and a fragrant herbal tea with a complimentary flavour of jam? Or maybe you just want to enjoy a classic cup of Earl Grey with the right biscuit?
With the practice of pairing food and teas becoming more popular and evolving, many have recognised the value of receiving training and accumulating knowledge about the different flavours and blends of tea. Doing so would mean being able to effectively create wonderful food and tea pairings. The International Tea Masters Association (ITMA), established in 2007, are world renowned for their expert level of training, education, and professional certification dedicated to those who desire becoming an ITMA Certified Tea Sommelier. Also, because food and tea pairing has become such common practice now, many restaurants across Europe and the US employ tea sommeliers in the same way they would a wine sommelier.
Whether you’re looking for a brew that goes well with spicy food, or you fancy something sweet, there’s definitely a brew out there for you. If you’re looking for a place to start with your tea match making journey, why not check out our range of loose leaf teas and give them a go? It may feel a bit daunting at first when thinking about trying make your pairings, but remember, there is no right or wrong way to do so. It’s all about trial and error, as well as personal preference, at the end of the day. So, get out there and get experimenting!