The perfect pair: matching exquisite teas with equally exquisite foods

We all enjoy a good meal prepared with love, intention, and skill. And now, farm to table — that which was once obscure — is considered a given. It is not even an added value, but rather something that we, as folks that like to dine out or purchase food from farmer’s markets, have come to expect. Choosing just the right eggplant for that rice dish we are excited to try, or noticing the fresh texture and flavor of the autumn harvested, delicata squash in that risotto from our favorite restaurant down the street. We eat food to relax, to be with friends, to have a treat, maybe to explore something new. The full experience of a lovely glass of wine with just the perfect pasta.  A cup of nutty coffee that really wraps up a meal.

Artisanal tea that has been grown at peak elevations and crafted by a true master’s hands — the natural flavor notes coaxed out through a laborious process of roasting — can easily sit next to the hand cut pasta with heirloom tomato sauce. Tea requires the perfect combination of that day’s weather (when the tea is picked is crucial), the skill of the maker and the quality of the leaves. There are no oils or artificial flavors added to these teas. They are unadulterated and exactly as they are intended to be.

When we are looking for just the right tea to pair with our meal, typically we go to contrast and compliment as the starting point. Local pears sliced and drizzled with a citrus honey served with a deep malty Honey Jia Long brings out the earthiness of the pear. A coconut green curry with eggplant and thai basil paired with the bright green and floral notes of Tieguanyin Light cuts the sweet richness of the curry.

Some of our favorite pairings:

Darjeeling 1st flush paired with strawberry cobbler and creme fraiche whipped cream. Floral green tea with the bright sweet cream and warm berry is a complex and utterly satisfying combination.

Yunnan Gold or 8 Year Loose Pu-erh with a dark flourless chocolate cake. Earthy teas paired with an unapologetic deep chocolate is a divine match.

Charcoal Fire Roasted Tung Ting accompanied by butternut squash soup with apples and tarragon. All roasted and warm and delicious, each supporting the other’s depth of flavor.

Another way to bring tea into the meal is to actually cook with it. Yes, cook with it. Putting a little Wood Dragon Oolong in during the last 5 minutes of steaming your rice can produce a fragrant and nutty rice with a totally unexpected flavor. Or, actually adding your already steeped leaves to salad. A pot of Lu Shan Clouds & Mist can be repurposed and added to a colorful salad of arugula, radishes, roasted corn and heirloom tomatoes. We have several recipes on our blog, graciously contributed by friends of ours, that we’d highly recommend. Check those out here.

We encourage you to explore tea beyond your treasured afternoon cup (though we all love that too). Still, there really is more to tea. It can compliment and heighten the perfect meal, or elevate the simplest and most humble of dishes. When you are planning your next big dinner, fill out our questionnaire for recommendations on the perfect tea to pair with your soup, side dish, entree or dessert.

Happy Tea Drinking (and pairing) to you!

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