Why do wine lovers get to have all the fun in selecting complimentary varieties to pair with different foods? Tea and wine are very much alike in the sense that they present delicate contrasts in body and nuance that, when combined with food, can create an excellent effect. However, like wine, certain teas work better with particular food groups to maximize the tastes of each other and offer a balance for the palette that cannot be rivaled by another type of beverage. Therefore, we have put together some ideas and guidelines for any tea drinker to use in finding the perfect tea and food combinations, though like all tea drinking endeavors, it is best to experiment with creative ideas that suit your personal taste.
Green Tea: These varieties are quite light, vegetal, and refreshing, but range in depth of taste depending on the area and method of cultivation. Because most green teas are hydrating and delicate, they work well with savory foods. For example, salty snacks and deli sandwiches are perfect, everyday choices that can be enhanced by a cup of green tea, such as Japanese Sencha or China Dragon Phoenix Pearl. Also, spicy foods that require a refreshing beverage, like many Asian dishes, benefit from the unobtrusive nature of green teas.
Black Tea: In contrast to green tea, black teas are much more bold and robust in nature and should be paired with foods that can neutralize the strong effect they have on the taste buds. Classically, pungent varieties, like Lapsang Souchong (a Chinese black tea), work well with sweet deserts, such as ice cream and fruity pastries. Many red meat dishes are also enlivened by the flavorful and dark taste of black teas, which bring out subtleties in flavor by the same method as red wine.
Oolong Tea: Because oolong teas are a middle-ground between green and black teas, as far as processing is concerned, they have characteristics that allow them to be combined with some of the same foods as both aforementioned varieties. Shellfish, spicy foods, and light desserts all go well with oolong tea, though it has such delicious complexities that it is also quite nice alone.
Herbal Teas: There is a huge range of flavors present between tea varieties in the herbal tea category, but as a general consensus, these are not the best alternatives to use in pairing with a uniform type of food. Technically, herbal teas do not originate from the Camellia sinensis plant, so they are not truly “tea” in the same sense as green, black, oolong, and white varieties. Usually, the flavors present in herbal tea are so poignant that they are best savored alone or paired according to their individual flavor profiles. Conversely, these tea varieties offer the widest range for experimentation in possible combinations with food, and each individual tea drinker may find a great match between his or her favorite herbal tea and a food group that is unbeknownst to even the finest culinary wizard.
The spectrum of foods that can be combined with different types of tea is immense, and formulating various pairings presents a fun challenge to undertake. Though we have offered some useful tips on matching teas with food, remember that the best fusion of flavors always comes from experimentation and creativity on the part of the consumer.