Tea Pairing 101
Do you love tea? And great food? Then Tea and Food Pairing 101 is for you! There’s a whole science behind pairing foods with beverages but Tea 101 is a quick, simple guide to get you started on your journey of pairing tea with food. Our hope is that you will enjoy a wonderful new taste experience and another level of pleasure and enjoyment while eating and drinking. Not to mention, tea is a healthy beverage that is so good for you!
Why pair tea with food? For the same reason we pair any beverage with food – to enhance the joy of drinking and eating together. It creates a wonderful new taste experience and another level of pleasure and enjoyment. Not to mention, tea is a healthy beverage that is so good for you!
TEA 101 – Q & A’s
Q. What is tea?
A. It’s an aromatic beverage made by steeping the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant – a sub-tropical evergreen shrub. Tea is any type produced from that shrub. So, in short, all true tea is produced from the same plant.
Q. Why are there different types of tea if they’re all come from the same plant?
A. How the leaves are processed, fermented, fired, dried and aged, determines the final classification or style of tea. There are sub-categories as well but the main tea classifications are: From mildest to strongest – white, green, oolong, black and pu-erh. The more fermented and or aged a tea is, the bolder it becomes and the higher the caffeine content. As for matcha, it’s simply made from grinding tea leaves (usually green tea) to a fine powder.
Q. What’s actually in tea?
A. Essential oils, polyphenols which contain health benefits, and naturally occurring caffeine.
Q. What is herbal tea?
A. Herbal teas are not ‘true teas’ – they are caffeine-free beverages made by steeping a variety of herbs, fruits, berries, flowers, spices and roots. They are called infusions or tisanes.
TEA PAIRINGS 101
The most delicate of the tea varieties is white tea. It has a lovely subtle, sweeter taste and is enjoyed either on its own, or paired with very mild flavours.
• Try it with spring green salads, steamed white fish, peaches or melons
There are several varieties of green tea as in vegetal and grassy, fruity, earthy or smokey.
• Green tea can be consumed with most foods, but are especially enjoyable when paired with vegetarian foods, rice, noodles, stir-fry, fruit salads and pastries
• Earthy or smokey green teas, like gunpowder (green) is best paired with foods that are not sweet but stronger in flavour as in – duck, smoked meats or root vegetables
The flavour and taste of oolong varies between black and green, smokier, richer and some sweeter. Depending on the oolong, it can be paired with a variety of foods.
• Light oolongs are more floral and sweeter in taste so are lovely on their own or paired with lobster, scallops, light desserts or afternoon snacks
• Dark oolongs are a natural with smoked meats, salmon, appetizer platters and rich pastries
Just like green teas, black tea can be divided into different categories, for food pairing.
• Black teas with strong flavours pair well with other strong flavours – like red meats or heavier pasta dishes like lasagna
• Milder black teas like English Breakfast love egg dishes and breakfast foods
• Darjeeling is lovely with egg dishes or creamy desserts
* Fruity black teas and Earl Grey teas pair well with sweeter dishes like pastries, puddings and desserts. They are also lovely with fruit salads or sandwiches. They are also a natural for iced teas because of their natural sweetness
• Earthy, malty black teas are delicious with thick or rich foods that are not sweet. Such as jerk chicken, grilled meats, or heavier mashed potato and gravy meals
• Smokey black teas (wood-fired) are too intense in flavour and would overpower lighter fare, so are best paired with very flavourful meats, heavy or blackened foods
Pu-Erh is full of character, complex flavour and history. It is considered a ‘dark tea’ and is loaded with bold earthy flavour and antioxidants. It is created by microbial fermentation and oxidation and can mellow and age just like fine wine.
There are two styles of Pu-Erh tea
1. Sheng Pu-Erh which is raw and naturally fermented over a long period of time; and
2. Shou or ‘cooked’ Pu-erh which uses an accelerated fermentation process
• Pu-erh teas pair well with red meats and oily foods. They are known for settling the digestive system and drink well after a large or heavy meal
• Enjoy a pot of this earthy brew alongside a plate of rich, decadent baked goods
• Ages goudas and pungent cheeses
An ideal Tea Pairing makes both food and tea taste better, but just like wine, it’s ok to break the rules and drink what you enjoy.
Have fun experimenting with tea and food!