Tea and food pairing is not as foreign it may sound. Think about last time you went autopilot to fetch a biscuit after making a cup of tea!
The first thing to remember about matching food and tea is bad tea goes with bad food. If you are serious about your food, you need to switch to loose leaf tea.The second thing is there are NO rules.
So let’s us present you some possibilities, if you will
The Dark Pair:
Red meat, or a dish cooked with a dark sauce, whether it is soya chicken nibbles or chocolate cake, go with black tea. The black tea brings out the rounded richness of the dish without added heaviness. Ceylon Orange Pekoe, for example is fragrant yet can help to settle a stomach full of rich chocolate mud cake; while Keemun or Lychee Red Tea, with a hint of smokiness, is fantastic to enhance chargrilled steak or chicken cooked in soya sauce.
Black tea also does a good job diluting the sensation from sweets. Baklava pairs up with Ceylon Orange Pekoe, Creme Brulee with Earl Grey, Danish with a good English Breakfast or Assam.
Green with Envy:
Green tea is very versatile and it really depends on the exact green tea you are trying to match to, as there are nuttier tasting green tea such as Lung Ching, which is good to go with a nuttier dish, such as a roasted meat sandwich, or grassier tasting, such as Japanese Sencha, which is beautiful to go with salmon. And what about the pop-corn tea, Genmaicha – it certainly calls for a smoked salmon sushi.
Lighter tasting green tea such as Yu Hua and Mao Feng from China is so light it goes well with a light dessert – souffle or something a little citrusy – perhaps crepes with lemon and sugar!
Oolong with the Heavy Weights:
Oolong, or Wu-Long, is partially fermented and the leaves tend to be large and uncut. Oolong has been recently getting a lot of attention for its weight management property.
Taiwanese and Chinese lightly fermented oolong has a more floral fragrance and taste, while the traditional Chinese oolong, such as Tie Guan Yin (Iron Goddess of Mercy) goes through a heavier fermentation hence the brew is dark brown, with strong and nuttier-smoky taste.
Oolong is perfect with meals that are packed with lots of meat or carbohydrate. Light oolong such as Green Jade from Taiwan is fantastic to couple with a light stock carbo-meal, such as udon or egg noodles in soup and pork. For meatier dishes, a light oolong is not bad, but we prefer to fetch the Tie Guan Yin.
White with Light:
White tea is one of those teas that is best to enjoy by itself because its taste is so “clean” that it deserves its own savouring moments. But, if you must, we would say a very light, thin biscuit is not bad, such as the light almond biscotti thins.
Pu-erh the Meat King:
Pu-erh is another tea that’s been touted for its superb digestive property. It has been drunk for centuries in Chinese culture with a meat dish, to “detox” the body from eating meat, as well as cutting the grease. Pu-erh is like an aged wine in every sense, including the price tag!
Pu-erh is fantastic to pair up with red meat dishes. Pu-erh simply “de-glues” your system after eating stews, steaks or dishes with thick brown sauce. Its earth taste rounds off these dishes without sinking your stomach to the floor! Try game meat such as duck with Pu-erh.
Herbs and Herbs:
I would be fooling you if I can describe herbs matching in a short paragraph. So I am going to keep it to a few more worth noting pairs.
- Rooibos: Caramel slice finished with Rooibos for their similar roundedness; or rooibos with red meat for its black tea-like taste.
- Lemongrass: Go fish! Lemongrass is fantastic to go with white fish or a fish curry. It helps to reduce your fishy breath afterwards too!
- Rose: Rose infusion actually carries a very mellow light taste. It goes well with a plain biscuit, shortbread, for example.
- Chamomile: Apple is the best we have found coupling with chamomile. So a slice of apple strudel please.
- Hibiscus / Rosella: This funky looking herb makes a vivid ruby colour infusion that is quite tart. Not bad to go with stoggy food like soup noodles with light broth, or a light coloured baked goods, such as scones with berry jam.
Some more tips:
- Try pairing fruits – lemon black tea with a lemon tart
- Don’t double the spice – avoid curry with a spicy ginger tea, unless you really want to fire up your system!
- Matching region – Sushi and Genmaicha – both from Japan; Spring roll and Lung Ching, both from China
But at the end of the day, tea and food matching is a personal art. So if you think strawberry goes with balsamic vinegar or chill goes with chocolate, then why not a cup of black tea with a white fish?
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