Question: what has myriads of flavor profiles, brings out the best in food, but has no alcohol? Answer: loose-leaf tea!
That’s right: the aroma, taste and body of loose-leaf, single-estate teas are influenced by varietal, terroir, processing technique, storage and much more. Through careful pairings of teas and courses, surprising flavors and textures are unlocked, making for an experience that is so much greater than the sum of its parts.
In the occasion of our upcoming tea pairing dinner (in partnership with T Shop in NYC – check it out here), we put in writing a few of the principles behind great tea pairings.
Foods and teas with similar flavors create harmonious experiences, and allow your palate to explore different notes and nuances around a unified theme. Think, for instance, of a Charcoal-Roasted Cui Feng Oolong paired with Roasted Chestnut Brown Rice and Miso Soup.
Tea is about much more than flavor. For centuries, it has been praised for its ability to keep us alert (thanks to its caffeine content) while helping us stay calm and focused (because of another amino-acid, theanine). That’s not all: different teas have different effects on our mood. Earthy, full bodied teas feel grounding; grassy, fresh green teas are stimulating; sweet oolong teas can be comforting like a dessert.
Select teas that reinforce the feeling you want to convey with each course: an appetizer might go well with a green or white tea that will make your guests hungry for more; a winter soup with mushrooms or root vegetables might go well with aged pu’erh teas – all of which convey a grounding feeling; desserts might benefit from sweet, fruity and floral oolongs that reinforce a feeling of lusciousness.