Drinking tea is a lifestyle for us here at Arbor Teas, and we know that’s the case with many of our customers. Tea extends itself past the morning and afternoon cup into dinner, and of course, dessert. As with wine, pairing drinks with food is a fascinating, ever-evolving world, and tea is certainly part of it. The varieties of flavors and aromas tea offers makes it a perfect candidate for culinary opportunity!
Below, we offer a number of pairing suggestions, as well as various tea menus and a little extra space devoted to an Arbor Teas favorite: tea and chocolate! As you consider the pairing of tea and food, keep in mind that the most important consideration is your own personal taste. We celebrate the unique perspective of your own taste buds!
Because of the extremely subtle flavor of white teas, we recommend pairing them with only the mildest of flavors, so as to not miss the sweetness that is so loved in white tea.
- Bai Mu Dan + basmati rice, light fish and basic salads
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.
- Dragonwell + seafood or fish, salads, chicken
- Gunpowder + Asian or Middle Eastern Foods
- Hojicha + Turkey or potatoes
- Sencha + Arugula and lightly steamed vegetables
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.
- High Mountain Oolong + Fruits or lighter breads with butter
- Ti Kuan Yin + desserts and fruits
- Wu Yi + Roasted vegetables and squash
- Plum Oolong + Wheat bread with jam
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.
- Darjeeling + egg dishes; creamy desserts
- Keemun + meats; fish; Chinese foods; spicy Mexican, Italian, or Indian dishes
- Yunnan + highly seasoned foods
- Lapsang Souchong + chicken, smoked salmon, lemony desserts
- Assam + hearty foods; breakfast foods; chocolate, custard or lemon desserts
Worthy of special note, pu-erh teas are known for their digestive benefits. Not only do these teas pair well with meats and oily foods, they can offer a welcome settling effect after large, multi-course meals!
- Wild Tree Mini Tuo-Cha + after a large meal (such as Thanksgiving Day); red meats, stir-frys, oily foods
Pairing Tea and Chocolate
Successful combinations of tea and chocolate can be achieved in a variety of ways. You can look for tea/chocolate pairings that share similar flavor characteristics, thereby enhancing one another. Conversely, you can also find very satisfying combinations where the flavors of the tea and chocolate contrast – these are sometimes the biggest hits. Lastly, look for tea/chocolate pairings where the characteristics of each aren’t necessarily the same, but are compatible or complementary in some fashion.
Chocolate and tea make for a perfect match in our book, and not just because we love the two. They share health benefits and flavor qualities including caffeine, flavonoids and tannins.
- Jasmine Green Tea or really floral oolongs (like our High Mountain Oolong) + dark chocolate with nice floral notes
- Dragonwell Green Tea or others with similar nuttiness + almond bark or dark chocolate with nutty qualities
- Earl Grey Black Tea + dark chocolate with pronounced citrusy notes
- Earthy pu-erh teas + bright, floral dark chocolates
- Spicy teas, such as Masala Chai Black Tea + milk or white chocolate (think chai latte or chai mocha!)
- Rich green teas like Sencha Green Tea or even Matcha Green Tea + milk or white chocolate
- Teas with a roasted or “toasty” quality, such as Hojicha Green Tea or Wu Yi Oolong + sweet milk chocolate or chocolate caramels
- Full-bodied, coppery Assam black teas (or others that would ordinarily take milk well) + milk or white chocolate
- Lapsang Souchong or similar smoked teas + really dark, bitter chocolate
- Oolongs with sweet honey tones + citrusy dark chocolate or chocolate infused with citrus
Lastly, a note on flavored tea and flavored/filled chocolate. There is absolutely nothing saying that you can’t extend this pairing approach to include flavored teas or filled/flavored chocolates. That said, it’s important to keep it simple. Too many added flavors (either in the tea or the chocolate) can make for pairings that are too busy or too complicated – and often not as enjoyable. Pick your focus, keep it simple and let a couple flavors take the spotlight.