tea sommeliers testing tea

Tea sommeliers are on the rise as consumers expect more from their dining experience | Sebastiaan ter Burg from Flickr via Creative Commons 2.0 | LINK

We’ve become savvier consumers. We want to know where our ingredients come from, we’re open to trying new ethnic flavors, and basic just doesn’t cut it anymore. We don’t want just any old tea to go with our dish. We want a tea that complements the dish, or vice versa. This demand has sparked the new job of tea sommelier. According to NPR, a tea sommelier is “the hot new thing in tea pairing.” Just like a wine sommelier would recommend a specific wine to accompany your meal, a tea sommelier knows just the right tea to go with your grub. Tea expert Aurelie Bessiere told NPR, “What you want to happen in your mouth is to feel the different layers of taste and flavors of both tea and food.” If you don’t have a tea sommelier on speed dial or the time to take a tea pairing class, here’s five food-tea pairing recommendations to kickstart your knowledge of this new art:

1) Kabuse Green Tea & Chocolate

According to NPR, “The kabuse is a green tea with high levels of umami—a pleasant, savory taste—as well as sweet and salty. The article says that “when these three flavors hit melted chocolate, you unlock a flavor similar to pure cantaloupe.”  Strange, but color us curious.  Kubuse and chocolate, please!

2) Butterfly of Taiwan Oolong & Sheep Cheese

NPR also recommends this pairing because the cheese enhances the fruity (think apple puree and candied citrus) and honey notes of the tea, which seems sweeter. The strong woody notes of the tea are elevated to a lighter and greener tone.”  That description exemplifies what makes tea pairing so special: when done right, it has the ability to elevate and enhance the flavors in both the food and the tea.

3) Earl Grey & Orange Beef and Chinese Broccoli

Bigelow recommends pairing its Earl Grey tea with red meat, duck, or dark chocolate, arguing that the tea’s citrus notes make them a perfect match with these meats and sweets. Bigelow’s recipe for Orange Beef and Chinese Broccoli meets that criteria, with an added bonus of more tea: it uses Bigelow’s Orange & Spice Herbal tea in the stir fry.  Double the dose of tea?  Sign us up.

4) Pu-erh & Mushrooms

Pu-erh, a fermented tea grown in China’s southwest Yunnan Province, goes well with mushrooms, tea sommelier Melani Franks told Fresh Cup Magazine. Pu-erh smells like soil, complementing the earthy tone of mushrooms. Try creating a pu-erh broth and adding mushrooms, or marinating mushrooms in a pu-erh-based concoction.

5) Black Tea & Camembert

Wine and cheese may seem like an unbreakable duo, but pairing tea and cheese works very well, too. Food & Wine recommends pairing black tea and camembert. Heidi Johannssen Stewart of Bellocq Tea Atelier recommends her company’s Gypsy Caravan tea—which blends black tea with rose and chile– to go along with Camembert. She told Food & Wine that this pairing “feels like you’re sitting around the fireplace.” Elaborates Food & Wine, the Gypsy Caravan black tea “features a gentle, smoky finish, which is excellent with Camembert earthy flavor.”

Don’t have the ingredients for these specific pairings?

Here’s a handy dandy chart from the Tea Association of Canada to get your noggin working on some other ideas. With so many varieties of tea on the market, each offering a unique flavor profile, we’re sure you’ll come up with some genius pairings on your own:

tea and food pairing