Tea and food pairings can be daunting as the word choice can be seen as too “upscale”. While in the past that may be true but it allows us to mindfully consider pairing between the beverage (tea) and food. Kaiseki is a great example of this. The meal originally is a light coursed dining before Japanese Tea Ceremony, and every aspect had to be thought out. This includes textures, flavors and even smells. Every aspect of the five senses was thought of. Now for a Tea and Food Pairings, you can go to this extent but if you were to have it with friends who may not be that into tea, keep it simple. Explaining the pairings and your reasoning is most important, but using simplicity with help get your passion across (and they will ask, many many questions).
In many places around the world, there is a reason for different pairings. Such as Japan, having wasabi with sushi. Together the wasabi cuts down on the fish smell and also protects the body from harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning. When it comes to tea, on the other hand, it can help with digestion and also act as an alcohol-free beverage. Wine and tea have similar notes, which makes it best for this.
The other aspect is that, much like wine, you can contrast, compliment or balance out the tastes. Creating an open dialogue amongst your friends will be the most important part of this. We all have different tastes, so if they are not keen on a pairing to ask them what they would suggest. You may be surprised by their answer (and maybe make them into a foodie, and possibly a tea drinker).
Why do I suggest having this experience and including friends outside of tea? The truth is when we get to close to something we miss some of the smaller details or even solely think about the “rules”. Go ahead and break some with your friends, by doing this your ability to taste tea (and anything else ) will increase. You may even find yourself become a connoisseur (or want to be a tea sommelier) of taste at the end
Choose your selection of Teas
To get started with your tea and food pairing adventure decision of what types of teas you want to try out. A “standard” way is to pick a range of types (white, green, oolong, black, puerh). But you can also broaden out, go with all whites or even puerh if you so fancy. It’s a great chance to break out some teas you have been wanting to share with your friends. In my case, all of them were new to them, so a range of types worked.
In my case, all of them were new to them, so a range of types worked.We ended up having Pai Mu Dan White, Sencha, Tie Kuwan Yin Oolong and Assam Black. Broad selection but I also took into consideration that most do not like the dryness or astringency of the tannins in black tea. After testing, the Assam at work was the best fit.
Research the types of food go well with those teas
Do a quick search on the internet and you will get varying ideas of food ideas. While there are”rules” to pairing, test our flavors together yourself. It is very “copy- paste” on the internet and it is highly suggested that you get inspiration. But also to test (before your gathering) yourself. For example, I had truffles and was pairing them with matcha one night, which went well. But the matcha truffle was the only one that paired well with the sheng puerh I had the next night. Consider all the flavors in a dish, as part of your pairing.
Try your tea and food pairings
Finally get your friends together and it’s time to eat and drink. Take time to explain about the teas but keep it simple. Your friends are bound to have questions for you during your tasting. Keep an open dialogue so that everyone can voice their opinion.
Food pairing is the adult way to “play with your food”, so have fun with it and try new things. The foods we had were Italian Caprese Tea Sandwiches, Matcha Butter Cookies ( which we did not end up having due to cooking times, so we tried a bit of the olive oil in its place), Watermelon Salad with Mint and Carrot Cake. I kept the recipe choices very summer like to suit the changes in the season and kept my friends tastes in mind.
Tea and food pairing is a great way to introduce your friends to tea in a fun way. Another idea is to have it as a small part of a tasting day with also beer, wine, and cheese. The more things you have to “play” with the more fun you will have in the end. Plus, you will be broadening out your tastes which you can use for tea later on. Win Win.