You may have heard of the traditional tea time foods like sandwiches, scones and cakes to pair with tea but what about every other meal? Just like certain wines pair perfectly with certain foods, tea is exactly the same. With their different flavor profiles, this makes for some delicious pairings that will enhance your culinary experience. Pairing tea with food is the perfect way to enhance the taste of a dish as well as the drink itself. For centuries, sommeliers and chefs have paired certain wines with certain foods. Most of us are familiar with the basic rules: Red wines to accompany rich, red meat dishes. White wines to accompany white meats, fish and vegetarian dishes. Dessert wines for… well, dessert!
There are a number of different types of tea including white, green, oolong pu’erh and black. Generally white tea has the most delicate and subtle flavors, black and dark teas having the deepest flavors and black tea the highest tannin content/astringency. When you have a dish in mind that you want to match a tea with, consider the weight of the dish and what type of tea has a similar intensity.
Because of the extremely subtle flavor of white teas, we recommend pairing them with only the mildest of flavors so you do not miss the sweetness that is so loved in white tea. Pure white tea has a very delicate flavor, sometimes with notes of apricot and has a buttery mouthfeel. It is often seen in blends with fruits like peaches or flowers like roses or orange blossoms. Think of white tea as you would a delicate white fish. Its taste easily melds with whatever flavors it’s paired with.
Pairing suggestions: oatmeal, yogurt, or other light dishes with fresh berries for breakfast and basmati rice, white fish and basic salads with lunch and dinner.
Our favorite white teas: White Peony, Dragonfruit and Citrus Blossom.
Green tea is known for its subtle taste and light and refreshing flavor profile in comparison to other types of tea like many varieties of black tea. In general, the subtle, vegetative flavor and aroma of most green tea is well suited to mild or subtly flavored foods, such as seafood, rice, salads, melon or chicken. Green tea is also great to drink after meals as it has been shown to help aid in digestion!
Pairing suggestions: Fish, lemon, mint, basil, vinegar, smoked or barbecued meat.
Our favorite green teas: Gunpowder Green, Sencha, Moroccan Mint
Many argue that the subtle complexity of flavor and aroma attributed to oolong tea demand drinking it on its own. However, because oolongs can range in character between green and black teas, many can be paired with food along the same lines as their green or black counterparts. For instance, greener oolongs tend to go well with scallops, lobster and other sweet rich foods, while darker oolongs compliment somewhat stronger-flavored foods such as duck and grilled meats.
Pairing suggestions: Bread and butter, fruit, roasted vegetables, milk chocolate, lightly salted foods.
Our favorite oolongs: Morning Oolong and Formosa.
The more robust flavors and aromas of most black teas, as well as the most pronounced tannins, are well suited to pairing with full-flavored foods such as meat and spicy dishes. Unlike green teas, black tea leaves have been cured and are therefore fully oxidized, resulting in a somewhat more astringent taste, together with malty and woody, roasted flavors similar to bread.
Pairing suggestions: Spicy food, beef, lamb, ham and chicken, lightly salted food, pasta dishes (like lasagna), and fruits.
Our favorite black teas: Darjeeling, Ceylon and Lapsang Souchong.
Worthy of special note, pu-erh teas are known for their digestive benefits. Pu-erh teas have a strong, earthy and distinctive flavor, and they make great choices alongside a chicken or stir-fry recipe, as they can neutralize the oily and greasy tastes. Thanks to their digestive benefits, these beverages are often preferred after large meals.
Pairing suggestions: After meal, eggs, red meat, wild mushrooms, chocolate, poultry.
Desserts and Tea
For desserts, we suggest seeking out English Breakfast black tea. Our Chinese teas are hearty, rich, and taste perfect when complementing baked custards, chocolate cakes, or a rich, dense strawberry shortcake. Assam is another rich black tea that complements chocolate desserts, yet is a surprising foil against lemony or custard dishes. Some may be sensitive to caffeine. To that we suggest our Decaf Earl Grey or Decaf English Breakfast. Due to the naturally sweet, floral nature of a Jasmine, it is also ideal to serve with a dessert such as fruit, macaroons and any coconut desserts! Chai tea also pairs wonderfully with light pastries and scones.