We’re tea lovers. We’re comfortable enjoying a cup of tea on its own, savouring the flavours and appreciating the gentle or unexpected notes. We have no problem with a single cup of tea. Other times, we want to pair up our beverage. We want to mix and match foods and flavours, see how they mingle, and enhance existing tastes. The question then becomes, how do we properly pair our tea with our meals?
Poorly matching tea with food leads to lost flavour, unpleasant rivalry, and can quite literally leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Bold tastes in your dinner can drown out subtle notes of your cup and vice versa. This is why the art of tea pairing may be more complex than you once thought.
When you discover the perfect way to pair each type of tea with your favourite dishes, enjoying them in harmony becomes a successful relationship rather than a tumultuous battle. Pick your top type of tea and learn to properly pair it.
White teas are known for being as delicate in taste as they are in preparation. Processing white tea is time consuming and precise to create a body of light and nuanced flavours. For these reasons, white tea is one of the most sought after and revered teas available. People savour these teas solo as to not risk burying the subtleties with foods that may steal the show.
For these reasons we actually recommend you enjoy your white tea on its own or with the accompaniment of a light and plain vegetable salad.
The green tea family is home to many varying flavours. One cannot simply group all green teas together and come out with an accurate and effective pairing. The three main tastes that a green tea exhibits is either a vegetable-taste (vegetal), a smoky taste, or a fruity taste. Each pairs differently with foods.
The vegetal taste is best offset with a more fishy flavour. Seafoods and dishes like sushi or sashimi are nicely complimented with this cup of tea. This explains why vegetal green teas are favoured as a Japanese staple.
The green teas that boast a smoky flavour are more easily placed next to a dinner plate. The strong flavour doesn’t risk being overpowered with rich or robust foods like root vegetables or seasoned meats.
The final member of the green tea flavour family is the fruity taste that some teas bring to the table. Pairing a fruity taste with an equally sweet or fruity taste compliment rather than contradict one another. These foods include fruit salads or even pastries and sweets.
The medium-processed oolong leaves create a special space for these teas. The oolong blend can fall into a lighter or bolder and darker cup of tea. These differences are created based on processing and emphasize distinct flavours.
The lighter oolong is fragrant, aromatic, and floral in flavour. These notes are delicious when matched with rich seafood and sumptuous lobster dishes. If you’re craving a meet and greet between sweet and salty, pair a floral oolong with crackers and cheese or chips.
Dark oolong teas hold their own at meal time. They have bold and smoky notes that need not shy away from foods with the same presence on the plate. These foods include smoky meats like duck, flavourful fish like salmon, or meat-based starters.
Surprisingly, smoky oolongs work with sweets too. Baked goods, pastries, or sugary snacks can be offset in an “opposites attract” tea and treat match up.
There are a ton of black teas to choose from, which can actually make pairing this cup more difficult than the others. The pairing matters less about the type of tea and more about the variety of flavours you’re choosing.
Fruity flavoured black teas are best paired with their own taste equivalent: desserts. Fruity black teas from India or Sri Lanka are ideal dessert buddies, as they enhance the sweetness rather than compete for attention.
Smoky black teas are intense. If you enjoy this bold tea you want an equally bold bite. Pair with dark smoky meats or bitter chocolate for the full-package.
Finally, we have the earthy black teas. These include the Yunnan’s blends and African loose leaves. Pass up dessert for dinner with this tea choice. You will be most satisfied with rich gravy, freshly steamed vegetables, and jerk chicken. The taste of the tea is meant to be as robust in flavour as the paired meal.
Don’t shy away from experimenting at the dinner table (or dessert table). One of the best ways to mix and match your cups of tea with your go-to dishes is by trying them out. Get to know the prominent or subtle tastes in your tea and pair them with foods that either enhance or compliment this flavour. Use the above suggestions as guidelines and have fun with getting your teas matched up.