A guide to tea and food pairing with eteaket
Tea and food pairing is here to stay: we’re seeing a growing demand from restaurants wanting to elevate their tea offering by pairing quality tea with their food. The market for tea and food pairings is blossoming largely because the four hour boozy lunches of the ‘90s are to all intents and purposes over (in fact some companies have actually banned employees from drinking alcohol at lunchtime), coupled with the fact that as a nation we’re increasingly health conscious, the demand for an alternative is clear.
It’s certainly a pairing that’s worth delving into as picking the right tea can turn a great dish into an extraordinary taste experience. You don’t need to be an expert to know when you’ve got the right match, you will just know.
Our restaurant customers are somewhat sceptical initially as to how a cup of tea can compete with a glass of wine but it doesn’t take long before they ‘get it’. Tea and wine are similar in so many respects, with layers of complexities and subtle nuances. There are so many varieties of tea, whether it’s a delicate Silver Needle white tea or a hand-rolled earthy Yellow Gold Oolong to a rich Tomatin Whisky black tea that it can be paired with a huge variety of foods from sea food and spicy Asian food to creamy chocolate puddings. When you find that perfect match between dish and tea you know you’re onto something. We’ve found that by cold brewing the tea (steeping in fresh cold water for at least 3 hours) and serving it at an ambient temperature it allows you to appreciate those complex flavours.
We’re created a cheat sheet to guide you on your tea and food pairing journey but before we get to that it’s worth exploring the main types of teas and the foods that tend to pair best with them. As a general rule, it helps to look at the country the tea originates from and consider the cuisine served there.
Black teas tend to have the most full and robust flavours so it stands to reason that they need to be paired with strong, flavoursome foods like meat or spicy dishes. Earthly black teas like those from India or Sri Lanka work well with roasted, dark meats whereas a smoky tea like Lapsang Souchong works surprisingly well with dark chocolate.
It can be challenging to get a robust enough tea to pair with a very rich beef course but our new Tomatin Whisky Tea is the perfect one for the job. It’s Europe’s first barrel aged tea and if you serve it at an ambient temperate in a whisky glass it really does cut through the bold flavours of the meat while the rich fruitiness from the whisky barrel ageing process and delicate smoky aftertaste compliment and bring out the flavours of the dish. This one has to be tasted to really understand the magic.
Oolong teas can have such a wide range of tastes so can pair with lots of different foods. Lighter, greener oolongs (like Yellow Gold Oolong) pair well with shellfish and sweet rich foods. Darker oolongs (like Big Red Robe) tend to match better with stronger flavours like duck and grilled meats.
Green tea generally has a subtle, vegetal flavour which works well with milder foods like seafood, salad and chicken. Most Chinese green teas work with lighter meats and can cut through the strength of fried foods to bring out the flavours. Chinese teas like Gunpowder Deluxe green tea can be slightly smoky and compliment chicken and root vegetables but avoid anything sweet.
Japanese green teas like Gyokuro tend to work better with seafood dishes because of their more vegetal taste. The sweetness in flavoured green teas (like Blooming Marvellous) mean that they’re often best with grilled fish, baked chicken and obviously lots of fruit based deserts.
White tea is naturally very delicate and tends to have a subtle sweetness, which you would miss completely if the food was too bold and overpowering. Instead, it works best with lightly flavoured foods with delicate aromas. Fresh vegetables, simple salads and some delicate shellfish work best. However, if you’ve got a slightly stronger flavoured white tea like our White Peach for example, the fruity notes stand up well to some desserts with fresh berries or seasonal fruits. It’s also a great palate cleanser between courses.
Although not teas, herbal and fruit infusions often work their magic towards the end of a meal when the sweet treats are served. Obviously, fruity numbers like Sea Buckthorn and Cranberry Apple Riot work with tangy fruity numbers but the more herbal blends like Lemon & Ginger work with egg based desserts. Our Isle of Harris Gin Tea can balance some fruity deserts (as well as pairing with simple starters or salads). We also find that Rooibos is very versatile when it comes to cheese whether it’s Chilli Rooibos with a delicious blue cheese, or simple Big Red Rooibos with creamier cheeses there is something for everyone. Of course, cheese and tea pairing is a whole subject in its own right – a good starting point is Royal Earl Grey with goat’s cheese. Heaven.
Gardener’s Cottage Event
We held a special tea and food pairing evening at Gardeners Cottage in Edinburgh last month. If anyone has ever been then you’ll know the food is exquisite and can be rather unusual. We had everything from Burnt Shimonita Oil to Quail’s Egg rolled in purple sprouting broccoli dust and Western Hemlock Pine Chocolate to work with. We’re pleased to say that we managed to match 7 teas to the 7 courses and every pairing worked and brought out the flavours of the dish and the teas in equal measure. They even incorporate some of our tea in the dishes themselves, with Cured Juniper Fish with Isle of Harris Gin Tea and Cold White Peach Tea Broth with French Sorrel. The feedback was great and the diners really seemed to enjoy having a more unusual culinary experience. They were pleasantly surprised at how versatile the wonderful tea leaves are and amazed at the many different ways of brewing and serving it.
You can read more about eteaket’s Tea & Food pairing event at the Gardener’s Cottage at The Herald here
Don’t forget to check out our handy eteaket Tea and Food Pairing Table 2017.
We really encourage you to look at tea in a different light. Experiment with it. Cold brew it. Sip it from a wine glass and really appreciate its beauty and complex taste. Whatever you do please don’t throw a tea cosy over it.
If you work in hospitality and would like to talk to us about creating your own tea and food pairing menu please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 0131 226 1292. You can find out more about serving or selling eteaket tea in your business here.
As always, if you’ve got any tea related questions or suggestions please do get in touch. Happy brewing. Erica x