Tea is said to bring out the aroma and flavours of different types of food, but just like wine, there are certain teas that pairs well and complements only certain food types. The best part of tea and food pairing is that it is not complex and since tea is a versatile brew, with varying textures, undertones, flavours, aroma and taste, it is not even that complex.
There are five major categories of teas that comes from the Camellia sinensis plant – white, oolong, green, pu-erh and black tea. Besides this, the market is also filled with the herbal tisanes which are free of caffeine and can also make up for a healthy brew with food.
Before we go into much details about the most common food pairings, it is important to remember that just like wine, tea also needs to be prepared and steeped properly. It also boils down to good nurture, picking and processing. To cite an instance, when you buy Darjeeling Oolong tea it is best to buy from a reliable source where the leaves are good, nurtured well and processed just enough to deliver that beautiful aroma and flavour.
Also, remember that when you are pairing tea with food, it is important to understand the flavours of the food and whether you wish to highlight the unique taste of the food or tea. Once you have figured this bit, you will be able to go ahead and pair teas with food easily.
Pair White Tea with Salads and Lightly Flavoured Rice Dishes
White tea is a delicate tea that is least processed among all other variants. If it is paired with spicy food, its flavours might get diluted by the strong flavour of the food. White tea is always best enjoyed without any food, however, if you still want to pair, it is best served with something equally lightly flavoured like an undressed salad or Basmati rice. In addition to this, since the white tea blend comes with a natural sweetness, it flavours will be accentuated when paired with fruits that lack in natural sweetness. The best time to serve this brew is before a meal.
Pair Black Teas with Pungent Foods
Black teas are processed to have strong flavours and therefore it is best to pair them with pungent foods. This is best served post a meal of heavy curries and meat dishes so that the tea can dispel off the lingering taste in your mouth. One good tea variety to be served in a similar manner is the Darjeeling autumn flush black tea.
Pair Green Tea with Vegetarian Dishes
Needless to say, green tea has a light texture and generally comes with a grassy or a vegetative aftertaste. If you combine green tea after a spicy, exotic meal, it will become overpowering to drink. The Chinese green tea comes with a smoky flavour and therefore is best paired with smokey foods like those of Mediterranean or Middle Eastern cuisines. However, if you have natural green tea, it is best paired with noodles, steamed veggies, salads, brown rice and vegetarian sushi.
Pair Oolong with Grilled Food
If you have bought Darjeeling oolong tea, the best thing to pair it with is foods that are grilled. Oolong tea comes with a range of complex flavours and aromas – and some of them, tends to richer while others are smokier. While oolong tea is a range in between black and green, it can be associated with a variety of food and if you are more experimental type, you can pair it with grilled vegetables and tofu rice. In fact, this tea goes really well with desserts like white chocolate and cut fruits.
These are some of the basic food pairings that go well together, however, the sky is your limit. Keep trying different foods and tea together to come up with your own favourite.
By Dhiraj Arora
who is a Certified Tea Specialist with the World Tea Academy (USA) and Tea Sommelier with Tea Sommelier Academy in Sri Lanka. Dhiraj also has an MBA degree from ESCEM School of Business, Poitiers (France). He is the owner of Karma Kettle. It is an online tea store in India. He is offering various type of Green tea, Black tea, Oolong, Darjeeling and many more teas.