This week the TeaGschwendner family got together and had a little party. A dinner party, that is. We were all eager to experiment with and experience tea foods and try our hand at pairings. We invite you to share in our findings.
Arugula Basil Salad. Tea: China Fancy White Peony
A light salad is best complimented by a light tea. The simple salad has a light olive oil/lemon dressing that is a great compliment to the subtle floral flavor in the tea. The China Fancy White Peony is a great pair, since the abundance of white tips creates a smooth cup with a slightly sweeter flavor than the other white teas, which is an excellent compliment to the basil and lemon in the salad.
Carrot-Ginger-Apple Soup. Tea: China Lung Ching
This soup is usually prepared with a vegetable broth base, but I chose to substitute strong brewed China Lung Ching. The carrots and apple create a nice sweetness in the soup that is supported well by the nutty notes in the tea base. The flavors are congruently rich and satisfying with a slightly indulgent natural sweetness that is hard to match. It seems basic to pair the dish with the same
tea used to prepare it, but that combination will help the palate distinguish the rich green flavor in the soup that may otherwise be lost.
Garlic-Herb Sauteed Shrimp -Kukicha Broccoli Rice. Tea: Japan Tamaryokucha
Since one of the dishes was cooked with tea, I wanted to make sure that the tea paired with it was going to compliment the rich woodiness that the Kukicha added to the rice without overwhelming it. A Japanese green made the most sense to pick up the subtle nutty flavor from the rice as well as the oceanic flavors in the shrimp. I decided on Tamaryokucha because it has notes of the typical briny/ seaweedy-Japanese tea flavor, but a slightly richer, rounder quality due to it’s pan-fired process than it’s steamed counterparts.
Broiled Sirloin with Simmer Vegetables -Baked Mashed Potatoes. Tea: Vietnam Yen Bai OP
This hearty, rich course called for an equally hearty tea to compliment it. It was a toss up between China Golden Yunnan, Assam Mokalbari, and Vietnam Yen Bai OP. After a few tastings, it seemed that the Vietnamese tea would be the best to stand up to the full flavors of the bacon/beer simmered veggies. The tea has an Assam type quality that creates a rich coppery cup with sweet hints of cocoa and molasses that picks up the subtle sweetness of brown sugar cooked into the dish. But don’t think subtlety and nuance is all to be found in this pair, rest assured that the heaviness of the cup will be able to support the full flavor of such a hearty traditional meat-and-potatoes meal.
Now for some general notes on tea pairings. We recommend checking out the “color wheel” approach toward pairing. It’s pretty cool.
Tea pairing, like wine pairing, beer pairing etc, is somewhat intuitive and determined by one’s own palate, so it has quite a bit of wiggle room. There are a number of traditional, regional, or cultural pairing approaches; which are a great place to start but otherwise it’s mostly about exploring and letting your taste buds be the test.
You can approach pairing from a few different angles. Think of a color wheel: often the best color combinations are either analogous or complimentary. Analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel, like green, blue green and blue) create an overall mood or tone that is rich due to it’s use of nearly uniform hue. It creates an easily understandable presence. Conversely, complimentary color combinations are be extremely useful as well. Complimentary colors (across from each other on the color wheel, like blue and orange) are somewhat challenging to one another and are compelling as opposites. Blue points out the inherent orange quality of orange when they are near one another. The same goes for food and tea. Since this was my first experiment with pairings, I went the more analogous route with the dishes chosen.
Analogous flavors: teas and food dishes that have similar flavor profiles (fruity, nutty, etc). This can enhance the common
flavors in both the beverage and the food by having them similar. For example, my choice of pairing the kukicha rice and shrimp
course with Tamaryokucha.
Complimentary flavors: like with colors, sometimes flavor pairings that seem somewhat opposite or challenging can be surprisingly successful. Think of the bacon chocolate bar: by adding the saltiness of the bacon, you can really appreciate the sweetness of the deep milk chocolate.
White Teas- fairly light flavors, such as rice, light greens etc.
Green Teas- mild veggie flavors, nutty flavors, chicken, fish. Japanese green teas pair better with “fishier” flavors, while Chinese green teas tend to be more successful with nuttier or lightly smoky dishes.
Oolong Teas -Some argued that oolongs are too nuanced in their own right to be successfully paired with food, that the food dish overtakes the subtlety of the tea, but others said it was great with food. Since there is such a range of oolong
flavors, make logical connections: greener oolongs with lighter foods, darker oolongs withe heavier dishes, especially Chinese or Thai dishes.
Black Teas- rich, meaty or spicy flavors (Assam with breakfast, Keemun with spicy dishes, etc.)
Pu-Erh-functions sometimes as a digestive and is often served with or after greasy or rich dinners, like stir fry.
We have a great deal of fun playing with tea. We’d also like to thank Abby (in below photo, far right) for not only being the brains behind the evening but for furiously cooking between courses.
If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you. Just drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, if you’d like to purchase any of the aforementioned teas, just visit our website http://shop.tgtea.com/store/