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An Authentic Tea Food Pairing setup with tea and cupcakes

Surprising Tea and Food Pairings to Try and Master!

Nov 12, 2023

Shanika Dasanayaka

Welcome to a flavorful journey where the delicate aromas of tea intertwine with the delectable world of cuisine as we explore the enchanting realm of tea-food pairings.

From bold & robust to mild & delicate, the world of tea offers hundreds of flavors and aromas. If you are a tea lover and an addict, you know how well these flavors can be elevated when you pair tea with another dessert or a culinary delight. These pairings or combinations can tantalize your palate and awaken your appreciation for your beloved cuppa. This is why tea food pairing is always exciting, and selecting the best foods that pair well with tea has become a challenging yet creative & artistic approach. 

What is Tea & Food Pairing?

Like any other beverage, such as wine, coffee, and soft drinks, tea also pairs well with soft refreshments. Combining the tea you drink with a food item will create a dazzling synergy of flavors in your mouth. Tea pairing is a newly introduced concept in the tea market, including in tea restaurants and hotels. The concept provides equally complex and sophisticated alternatives to alcoholic beverages like wine. You may also try tea food pairings on your own whenever you sip a cup of tea.

Rules for Tea Pairing

First, you need to understand that there is no hard-and-fast rule for tea pairing. You are free to decide and be creative in making your tea pairing based on your taste. However, not all the tea types pair well with all the food items. It is up to you to try it out and find out what flavor profiles of tea go well with different flavors of foods. Below are some tips for beginning this exploration. 

Black Teas

Black tea has a bold, bright, delicate, astringent taste and fragrance. Sometimes it holds a delicate bitterness as well. The robust flavor of black tea pairs well with meat and spicy dishes of similar strength. Foods such as roast meats, spicy lamb dishes, heavy pasta like lasagna, lightly salted food, and fruits pair well with black tea.

Green Teas

Green tea has an earthy, mildly astringent vegetative taste and fragrance. So, the taste of green tea matches well with mild or subtly flavored foods such as seafood, vegetarian salads, rice, melon, chicken, and mild green curries. Green tea is excellent as an after-meal tea, as it has some benefits for aiding digestion.

White Tea

Being considered a luxury tea, white tea has a gently sweet and subtle flavor in the brew with a buttery mouthfeel. Therefore, it pairs well with light foods, such as basic salads, white fish, oatmeal, yogurt, basmati rice, etc.

Oolong Teas

Oolong tea is a semi-oxidized tea with a smoky or complex flavor profile that may be closer to black and green tea. When comparing the flavors, greener oolong teas are closer to green tea, while darker oolong teas show closer attributes to black tea. In general, oolong tea pairs well with herby dishes, fruity desserts, smoked cheese, and meats. The greener oolongs go well with foods like scallops, lobster, and other sweet-rich foods, while the darker oolongs pair with strongly flavored foods like grilled meats.

Fruit and Scented Teas

Fruit tea and scented teas have a bright, fruity, and sweet taste. Scented teas can result in a range of flavors, like fruit and floral flavors. Therefore, the pairing of food with each flavor needs closer analysis and care. The teas are perfectly paired with complex desserts like cakes, pastries, cookies, dark chocolate, and sometimes spicy meats.

How to Pair Tea and Food?

Not all teas pair well with all types of foods. The flavor of tea and the flavor of food play a big role, and those two need to match perfectly to make a perfect flavor fusion. You need a proper understanding of the flavor profile of tea and different food items. You can experiment with these on your own and decide which tea could pair with which food. This way, you can become a master in tea food pairings. Below are some tips for you to begin your journey. 

Assam

Assam tea would give you a deep, rich, full-bodied flavor combining malty, earthy, and spicy notes in the teacup. Therefore, when pairing foods with Assam tea, you need to pick food items that match the tea's flavor profile. Continental breakfast, carrot cakes, eggs, mushrooms, gingerbread, Mexican food, salmon, strong cheese, and red meat are the best pairing food options for this exceptional tea.

Ceylon Black

Ceylon black tea has a bold, full, and brisk flavor with a refreshingly pungent aftertaste. Therefore, the foods paired with Ceylon black tea must perfectly meet its flavor profile to deliver a magical taste. Continental and English breakfasts, spicy foods, beef, lamb, ham, chicken, lightly salted foods, honey sweets, and fruits give better pairing options with Ceylon black tea.

Chai

Chai is a spiced black tea blend with an intense spicy flavor. The fusion usually blends cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg, star anise, ginger, fennel, and a few more spices with black tea. Due to its prominent spicy notes, the tea is always drunk as milk tea or a latte. You can enjoy several foods with chai tea, such as custard, ice cream, baked goods, rice, oatmeal, chocolate, savory pastries, and bread. Chocolate is one dish that pairs well with chai tea, and milk chocolate is another option. You can also try chai tea with ice cream, which may sound uncommon. Baked or fried foods, savory pastries combine perfectly with chai tea, and the flavors of Chai are also great with a bowl of oats. You can try Chai with bread as a quick breakfast as well.

Earl Grey

Earl Grey is one of the most recognized and loved tastes in the tea world. The tea adds a refreshing citrusy flavor to black tea. It is a simple mix of black tea and bergamot oil. Regarding flavoring, Earl Grey tea pairs well with food items with a citrusy vibe. You can mix cream chocolate with Earl Grey tea as a hot drink, resulting in a very unique beverage. The Americans and Europeans have identified that adding milk and sugar to the earl gray teacup improves the overall feeling. Further, earl gray is ideal with eggs and warm spices like peppermint, cinnamon, and cardamom to deliver a perfect flavor combination.

First Flush Darjeeling

Darjeeling First Flush tea from India is one of the market's most prized and expensive teas. The tea possesses its own excellent taste, like musky-sweet tasting notes similar to Muscat wine, but it can also have fruity and citrus flavor notes. First Flush Darjeeling Tea pairs well with fresh fruits like strawberries, apples, apricot grapes, and lemon. Moreover, the tea has the matching flavors of soft cheese, custard, eggs, curries, grilled fish, and salmon.

Gunpowder Green

Gunpowder green tea has a unique gunpowder-shaped appearance. Thus, it gets the name Gunpowder green tea. The tea possesses a nutty, vegetal taste with a mild smoky hint. Therefore, some food items pair well with gunpowder green tea. The tea's flavor profile accentuates the taste of seafood such as fish and thus makes seafood very tasty. With its slight smokiness, tea pairs well with roasted foods such as barbecued meats. Lemon, basil, and mint with gunpowder Green tea may also have several health benefits as they pair perfectly with each other.

Jasmine Pearls

Jasmine pearls tea originated in China and gives a solid floral flavor and aroma of jasmine. The spicy foods and spiced white meat pair well with jasmine pearls, & the dishes can provide an earthy scent that deepens the jasmine attributes. The soft bitterness of Jasmine Pearls tea pairs well with mildly sweet desserts like carrot cakes. Further, the tea goes well with light vegetables, potatoes, and fish dishes as the flavors match each other very well.   

Keemun

Keemun tea is a type of black tea that originated in China. The tea gives a dark reddish cup with a lightly sweet, smooth, malty taste with floral hints. Keemun tea also pairs well with juicy red meats. As a type of black tea, it goes well with milk and sugar and is widely used to make continental and English Breakfasts with milk. Further, the tea pairs with chocolates and vanilla, giving an excellent taste combination and mouthfeel. Keemun tea and soft cheese pairings are also a unique combination to try and savor. Tea has also been identified as a kind that pairs well with spicy food types and eggs.

Pu'erh

Pu'erh tea is a fermented and aged black tea explicitly made in Yunnan province of China. As the tea goes through an aging phase while allowing microbial fermentation to take place within the tea, it has a subtle mushroom-like taste when brewed. Therefore, the tea is paired perfectly with food items with similar taste profiles. The tea pairs with red meats, BBQs, and differently prepared egg dishes. Another perfect pairing of traditional Chinese Pu'erh tea is chocolate and almonds, which give a fabulous taste together. Hence the tea perfectly combines with wild mushroom and soy sauce; there are many recipes to make different food items giving a better taste experience. Pu'erh tea is ideal as an after-meal tea to pair tea with your meal and absorb its health benefits.

Sencha

Sencha is a Japanese tea made by steaming, rolling, and drying tea leaves. It gives grassy, astringent, butternut, and sweet notes in the brewed cup, and the food items having similar flavor profiles pair well with Sencha. Sencha tea can be primarily seen in sushi restaurants. The dishes like shellfish and seafood give an outstanding experience with sencha, and the same feeling can be experienced by pairing sencha with rice, eggs, fresh, delicate cheese, and vegetables. 

Yunnan

Yunnan tea is a black tea native to Yunnan province in China. The tea is made by fully oxidizing, giving a strong flavor with a honey-like sweet taste in the brew. As a result of its strong and sweet taste, it gives a better taste to meats like grilled meat, lamb, turkey, and beef. The sweet taste present in the tea makes a perfect combination with milk and chocolate; therefore, most European countries use Yunnan tea for breakfast. The tea also pairs well with fruit compotes, almond desserts, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg.

Final Thoughts

Tea is a refreshing beverage that mostly drinks hot, and as a result, it can wash off any existing flavor in your mouth. Therefore, when you have food with a cup of tea, you will feel the same taste as the taste of tea while enjoying your teacup with refreshments. The taste of tea and the paired food item must match well to bring you an outstanding flavor combination. Not all foods pair well with all the tea types in the world. You need to experience and master the art of tea-food pairing.

There is no hard rule for pairing tea with food items. The only rule that needs to be followed in tea-food pairing is matching the taste profiles of the tea and pairing food. There are many tea types worldwide, such as black, green, white, oolong, fruit, scented, and many more.

Some food items pair very well with specific teas, and the art of tea pairing with food needs to be mastered by continuing to experiment and experience. Several food items have already been identified, as well as pairing foods with different types of tea, and you are not restricted to bonding only with them. Find out more food items that pair well with different teas on your own and become a master in tea food pairing!

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