Tea Pairings and Menus
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.
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!
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.
- 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.
Fall Menus with Tea
For most of us, fall signals a time for settling in and getting cozy in the kitchen. Steaming mugs, bowls of soup and comforting warm food help keep the cooling nights at bay. For us, it means lots of spicy tea, chai lattes, and incorporating fall flavors into everything we make. It’s the perfect time of year to ease into the indulgence of the holidays. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite fall recipes for that crisp autumn feeling, and topped it off with a few holiday cookie recipes to get you ready for holidays.
For Breakfast: SUPER Chai Pumpkin Muffins & More
What’s easier than grabbing a muffin in the morning? Make these SUPER Chai Pumpkin Muffins on Sunday night and scarf them down in the carpool lane or on your morning commute. They’re sweetened with applesauce, enhanced with blueberries and flavored with our Masala Chai Black Tea - making them the perfect breakfast on the go.
Looking for something slightly more…indulgent? These Masala Chai Spiced Donuts are totally up your alley.
For Lunch: A Warming Soup
This Dragonwell Green Tea Chicken Noodle Soup is a hearty and warming lunch. With a boost of protein and lots of veggies to boot, this is the perfect soup to make on a weekend and draw from all week long. Plus, the Dragonwell Green Tea will give you an afternoon caffeine boost!
And because we always have a little chocolate after lunch, we couldn’t resist including these lovely chocolate energy bites - the perfect accompaniment for a mid-afternoon cup of matcha!
For Dinner: All The Squash!
Mother nature must have known that we would need a vitamin boost before our long dark winter. Why else would she have given us an abundance of squash just as cold and flu season was closing in? Luckily, this is one versatile ingredient. We love this Miso Delicata Squash recipe from 101 Cookbooks. And if you’re looking for something a bit heartier – but no less healthy! – try this Butternut Squash Lasagna from My New Roots. The sweetness of squash pairs well with a darker tea. Around dinnertime, try pairing with a relaxing variety such as our Organic Wu Yi Oolong.
For Dessert: Put Your Pumpkin Haul to Good Use
Who said you have to carve those pumpkins and put them on your doorstep? If you’ve managed to come across some sugar pie pumpkins, you can clean them, roast them and make the most delicious pie. We love this Masala Chai Pumpkin Pie, an even more delicious twist on the classic.
And if you’re looking for a way to use those apples, we keep coming back to this Black Tea Apple Pie from (the now retired blog) Sift and Whisk. If you’d rather drink your tea with your dessert, we think this Skillet Apple Cake is well worth the minimal effort. (Tip: Use sweeter apples and less sugar!) And if you want to get SUPER fancy, bake this apple cake... and please invite us over.
Holiday Cookies with Tea
Matcha Pistachio Cookies
If it’s just not Christmas until you’ve gotten out your cookie cutters, this recipe is for you. These deep green matcha pistachio cookies get a health boost with the addition of matcha, the antioxidant packed finely-ground form of green tea. Because green tea helps your body metabolize sugar, you can feel a little better about indulging.
Tip: Ceremonial-grade matcha is best for drinking. Try cooking-grade matcha for this recipe.
Indoor Tea S’Mores
Whether you’re looking to make gift-worthy holiday cookies or are simply up for a kitchen adventure, our indoor tea s’mores will do the trick. These scrumptious little s’mores start with Thai tea biscuits made with our Thai Iced Tea blend. They are then dipped in a smoked tea chocolate ganache made with our smoky Organic Lapsang Souchong Black Tea, and finished with a dollop of homemade marshmallow.
Earl Grey Tea Cookies
There’s just something comforting about sipping a cup of richly-scented Earl Grey Black Tea in the wintertime. You can take that pleasure to the next level by including these crisp little Earl Grey tea cookies. Add a little chocolate to the mix by partially dipping the baked and cooled cookies into chocolate ganache and letting them set on parchment paper before indulging.
Tip: Want the cookies without the caffeine? Go for decaffeinated Earl Grey.
Vanilla Rooibos Tea Cookies
Depending on how you look at it, the additional caffeine that comes when you add tea to your cookies can either be a big benefit, or a bit of a downfall – especially when giving the cookies to kids. These vanilla rooibos tea cookies, made with the caffeine-free herbal Rooibos, solves that problem in one sweet little cookie. And, because rooibos is naturally sweet, you don’t need to use a lot of sugar.
Tip: This recipe calls for using a whole vanilla bean. If you can’t find one, try using our Organic Vanilla Almond Rooibos blend instead.
Tea-Laced Shortbread Cookies
Here’s a traditional cookie with a tea-riffic twist – buttery shortbread cookies done three ways: with green tea, black tea and Masala Chai. If you need to make a lot of cookies for a party, or simply want to fill some tins for gifts, these are the cookies for you.
Tip: If giving these cookies as gifts, include a sample of one of the teas used in the cookies for your giftee to enjoy. Our tea samples start at just $2.50 and can be ordered for any variety of tea.
Looking for more fall and Holiday favorites? Follow us on Pinterest!
Thanksgiving Menus with Tea
When the Holidays roll around, don’t forget about adding tea to your menu! Here are some of our suggestions for including tea for holidays gatherings. Enjoy, experiment, and happy holidays!
For the Potluck
Potlucks are fun because you don’t have to do the heavy lifting of creating an entire meal, and are free to experiment – contributing something that is uniquely you. The trouble is transportation. These recipes were selected with that in mind – they’re delicious, creative and easy to transport.
- Appetizer: Smoky Lapsang Souchong Spring Rolls. These perfectly packable spring rolls are the ideal potluck companion. Simply assemble them ahead of time and pop them in the oven when you arrive.
- Main: Dragonwell Chicken Noodle Soup. Potluck main courses are typically the domain of casseroles and savory pies. Challenge the trend and be a potluck hero by bringing this hearty soup flavored with Dragonwell Green Tea. To transport it, simply pour it into a large Mason jar and secure the lid tightly.
- Dessert: Indoor Tea S’mores. These s’mores require a little effort, but offer big reward. Keep them cool while driving over the river and through the woods and they’ll look just as great as they did when you made them.
Dinner for Two
Not every holiday dinner has to be a huge affair. In fact, some of the best holiday dinners are a little quieter. If you’re keeping it small this year, try this menu:
- Appetizer: Rooibos Butternut Pizzettas. Rooibos sweetens up the already sweet butternut squash for an almost irresistible appetizer. Top your pizzettas with crumbled blue cheese and toasted walnuts for added complexity.
- Main: Tea Rubbed Salmon. This simple and light recipe makes use of Ming Tsai’s Five-Spice Chili Tea Rub, which combines Lapsang Souchong Black Tea with red pepper flakes, chipotle powder, and Chinese five-spice powder, garlic and salt. Serve over rice and with a side of sautéed green beans.
- Dessert: Smoky Lapsang Souchong Caramels. One challenge with having a small dinner is that you don’t want a ton of leftovers – especially when it comes to dessert. These caramels can keep for weeks in the refrigerator, so you can enjoy them throughout the holidays, or even give some as gifts.
For The Whole Family
The big family dinner requires you to have a little something for everyone, and most are eager for traditional fare. Satisfy their expectations, while enjoying a little experimentation, with these inventive and thoughtful dishes.
Like Thanksgiving, your Friendsgiving meal should offer a fresh takes on the traditional favorites. It might be worth taking a few more risks with Friendsgiving, though, as your friends may be more forgiving than your in-laws!
- Appetizer: Chamomile Thyme Miniature Chess Pies. These savory little pies are just as fancy as they sound. The cream in the custard is infused with chamomile, for a delicately floral and decidedly fancy-pants start to your meal.
- Main: Tea-Rubbed Turkey. As more and more cooks incorporate tea into their cooking, tea rubs have become a popular way of infusing the distinctive flavor of tea in all kinds of roasted meats. For thanksgiving, we recommend going for a black tea such as a smoky Lapsang Souchong.
- Dessert: Masala Chai Pumpkin Pie. It’s not Thanksgiving (or even Friendsgiving) without pumpkin pie. This one is easy to put together and offers the unmistakable taste of chai spice with every bite.
Very Vegan Thanksgiving
It can be difficult to “veganize” traditional meals, and there’s only so much Tofurkey one can take. Luckily, if you thoughtfully prepare a few sides (incorporating silken tofu or nut cream instead of the real thing, or using olive oil instead of butter) many of your traditional sides can suddenly become vegan, and stay delicious. There are even a few great vegan holiday showstoppers that also incorporate tea.
- Appetizer: Black Tea Toasted Pumpkin Seeds. Smoked black tea, such as Lapsang Souchong, combines with salt and fat for a delicious, crunchy and unexpected appetizer. This recipe makes use of butter, so replace it with a vegan alternative such as Earth Balance. Want a heartier vegan appetizer? Go for our Chamomile Hummus.
- Main: Tea Crusted Tofu over Polenta. Tofu and tea are natural companions. This tea-crusted tofu dish is served over warming polenta, for a perfectly hearty vegan holiday meal.
- Dessert: Matcha Raspberry Bliss Balls. This recipe does require you to buy raspberries out of season, but you only need a few. You’ll blend them with matcha, cacao, dates, almonds and salt for a raw truffle that’s so healthy you might want to eat it for breakfast the next morning – provided there are any left!
More Tea Menu Ideas
Great for a group of two or twenty, the tea party is a versatile event whose popularity continues to this day! Tea can be a great excuse to get together with friends, family and is still perfect for little ones and their stuffed animals. If you love tea and you love food, we’ve come up with a few ways to incorporate the two into a beautiful meal.
For Your Fanciest Friends
- Smoked salmon garnished with capers
- Cheese platter
- French bread
- Assorted olives
Tea Suggestion: Green Tea Martinis
This basic menu can be assembled in no time with little preparation. It is perfect for a gathering of friends and the green tea martinis offer a unique twist!
When Your Special Guests Are Teddy Bears
- Crackers (graham crackers work great –add peanut butter or chocolate frosting for a treat)
- Apple slices
- Fresh Veggies
- Sugar cookies (cut in fun shapes with colored sugar on top)
Tea suggestion: Organic Peach Rooibos or sweetened Organic Crimson Berry Fruit Tisane
Invite a group of children and their favorite doll or stuffed animal for a fun afternoon tea. Serve tea in a small teapot with small tea cups at a child-sized table. Let the tea cool somewhat before serving, and be sure to set enough places at the table for each child and his/her “guest”!
For the Bridal Shower
We recommend building the menu around the guest of honor’s favorite foods, but here are a few suggestions:
- A variety of finger sandwiches
- Maids of Honor (delightful little nut tarts that are so fitting!)
- Scones served with clotted cream and jam
Tea suggestion: Organic English Breakfast Black Tea
A personal favorite of ours! We love throwing a tea party as an alternative (or supplement) to the typical bridal shower. Schedule a pre-wedding tea on a day when most of the out-of-town guests have arrived for the wedding festivities. This activity allows both sides of the family to socialize in a comfortable setting before the “real deal” begins. Plus, we already thought of an invitation title for you: To Celebrate the Bride-to-Be, Please Join Us For a Bridal Tea!
For the Holidays
- Cheesy egg bake
- Freshly baked bread
- Butter and jam
- Sweet cakes and breads (lemon poppyseed is a favorite!)
Tea suggestion: Organic Holiday Spice Black Tea
A tea during the hustle and bustle of the holidays is a perfect excuse to slow down, take a breather, and enjoy the season! Evenings are generally busy during the holiday season, consider having this tea party in the morning for a relaxing way to start the day. Keep your menu simple and fill it with items that can be prepared in advance, so you have a chance to slow down and enjoy the tea, too.
For the Hottest Day of the Summer
- Cold cucumber-mint salad
- Potato salad
- Cold fried chicken
- Plain scones or biscuits with honey
Tea suggestion: Organic Nilgiri Black Tea for iced tea
Nothing is better on a hot summer day than a cold glass of iced tea. Whether it’s in your backyard, at the beach, or at the park, be sure to arrange this tea in a shaded area and by all means do don’t turn on your oven!
The Brazilian Gaucho Tea Party
- Fried Plantains
- Cheesy rolls
- Grilled meat on a skewer (beef, pork, sausage, chicken, etc)
- Pork and black bean stew
Tea suggestion: Organic Yerba Mate
Plan your menu around traditional Brazilian cuisine and serve with the drink of the gauchos, yerba mate. To be truly authentic, drink the yerba mate from gourds sipped through a bombilla (similar to a metal straw with a sieve at the bottom).
Tea Tasting Party
- Chocolate pots de crème
- Clotted cream and jam
- English toffee or similar sweet treat
Tea suggestion: Organic Silver Needle White Tea, Organic Sencha Green Tea, Organic Ti Kuan Yin Oolong Tea, Organic Golden Yunnan Black Tea, Ancient Green Tuo Cha Pu-erh Tea.
What better reason to have a tea party than to taste teas? Choose 5-6 of your favorite teas or 5-6 new varieties that you’ve always wanted to try. Remember to sample your teas before you begin eating (a delicate white tea is no match for a chocolate dessert!). For new tea drinkers, we suggest sampling at least one tea of each variety for comparison (i.e. white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh) – you’ll be amazed by the variety. Wrap-up the event with a few delicious desserts.
For tips on how to conduct a tea tasting, visit our easy step-by-step guide on How To Conduct a Tea Tasting.