While enjoying your dinner outside, you will usually see the menu being accompanied by a wine. Just like choosing the right wine is an important part of the food selection process, tea selection is also important.
Tea is known to enhance and bring out the aroma and subtle flavours of food. But, just like wine, you also need to learn which tea can actually complement the taste of certain foods. Pairing tea with food is an adventure with different flavours, it is similar to wine that provides an extensive range of tastes. Tea is a palate cleanser or mid-course transition to bridge a person from one course to the next. As the popular say goes, ‘If you are cold, tea will warm you. If you are too heated, it will cool you. If you are depressed, it will cheer you. If you are excited, it will calm you.’
Try these tea pairings and you may also discover a few of your own. After all, there is no right or wrong way to serve this wonderful beverage.
Pure unblended white tea produces a very light infusion. So light that most foods will overwhelm the flavour profile of white tea and often leave you with the impression that you are simply drinking hot water. It is best to choose a very light food with very light flavours. White tea has a natural sweetness which is accentuated when combined with foods that lack this natural sweetness.
Combining white tea with an undressed basic salad, just a plain basic salad can taste better with white tea.
With this ideal pairing, white tea will taste slightly sweeter when combined with basic salads. Having said, there are very few foods that combine well with white tea, so it may be best to simply drink white tea alone and not combine it with food.
There are basically three different flavour profiles of green teas to consider: vegetal or grassy, which are generally representative of Japanese green tea; smoky or strong, which are representative of Chinese green teas, and fruity or citrus, which are representative of Ceylon (Sri Lankan) and Indian green teas.
Vegetal green teas have a fresh, grassy flavour, sometimes reminiscent of sea weed. These types of teas are very complimentary to seafood. The freshness and grassy flavour of the green tea accentuates the entire category of sea foods, and in turn, seafood prepares the palette very well to receive this profile of green tea.
Smoky green teas have a slight smokiness to them acquired during manufacturing.This tea compliment a range of foods which are stronger in flavour profile than seafoods, but lighter in profile than red meats or similar strong foods. Green tea have an astringent quality which is very helpful to cut through some of the light greasy mouth-feel left behind by pan-fried chicken or turkey.
Fruity green teas are excellent when combined with light meats such as chicken or turkey, and are also great as iced teas. Because these teas are slightly lighter than the smoky green teas, and also have a light natural sweetness, they are favorites for many kinds of salads including fruit salads, sandwiches, unsweetened pastries of all kinds like croissants, wholewheat bread, paninis, etc. Although the fruity green teas are good with light meats, they are not good for greasy or deep-fried meats; combine with baked chicken or turkey rather than pan-fried.
Oolongs are available in many varieties, Light oolongs and Dark oolongs. Light oolongs like Tie Kwan Yin have a very different flavour profile than dark oolongs such as the Wuyi Rock. Light oolongs are fragrant, sweet, aromatic, and generally floral, while dark oolongs are more full-bodied, smoky, and strong, although not as strong as black teas.
Light oolongs are best combined with foods that bring out the floral and sweet character of the tea. For those who like the sweet and salty combination, light salted snacks like crackers, baked chips, etc would go quite well.
Dark oolongs are excellent when combined with many types of pastries, pancakes with natural maple syrup, fried or baked light meats, medium rare to rare red meats, and many desserts. they go especially well with fish like salmon, trout, bass, etc.
Black teas can be loosely divided into three general categories in terms of food pairing: Fruity, malty or earthy, and smoky.
Fruity black teas are generally from India or Sri Lanka, these are excellent when combined with sweet desserts, thick pastries, or any foods that leave a thick residual mouth-feel.
Earthy black teas are usually from Yunnan in China or Africa, while malty black teas are usually from India. As opposed to the fruity teas which tend to go well with rich and thick desserts, these earthy and malty black teas are a great accompaniment to red meat or heavily flavored meats like jerk chicken, blackened meats or vegetables, mashed potatoes with gravy. Because the earthy black teas are not as sweet as the fruity black teas, they tend to be best when accompanied with thick or rich foods which are not sweet.
Smoky black teas are predominantly from China and are a result of the manufacturing process. The smokiness is very strong and is definitely an acquired taste. These teas are so intense that they would be best accompanied by equally intense foods. An earthy black tea would pair well with a heavily sweetened dessert like chocolate cake. The sweetness and smokiness tend to swing the balance of flavour from one extreme to the other, creating an interesting dynamic.
Enjoy your tea with whatever you desire. We say, experiment; break the rules, try new pairings, and most of all, have fun! Surely, you will find the ideal tea to pair with your appetizer, entrée, or dessert.
[button text=”Health Facts on Tea” size=”large”]
- Drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack, cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.
- The antioxidants in tea might help protect against cancers, including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers.
- Tea helps fight free radicals.
- Drinking tea is also linked with a lower risk of Parkinson disease.
- It might provide protection from ultraviolet rays.
- It helps keep waist circumference in check.
- It is beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes.
- Green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength.
- Tea might be an effective agent in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases, especially degenerative diseases (like Alzheimer).