Just like wine, some flavors of tea complement certain dishes better than others. When creating tea and food pairings, take note of any unique flavors or aromas in the tea that would enhance the flavor of certain foods. For example, Earl Grey, a black tea scented with bergamot oil, has a citrus taste that complements desserts with a similar flavor, like an orange scone or a lemon pastry. Or consider Lapsang Souchong, a Chinese black tea, which pairs nicely with meats and other savories but its distinctive smoky flavor and aroma clashes with sweet desserts.
The basic rule of thumb is to pair strong teas with heavy foods and light teas with lighter foods, but there is really no right or wrong way to create tea and food pairings. The most important factor is your own personal taste as well as the tastes of your guests. Below are some rough guidelines to keep in mind when deciding on the perfect tea to serve at your tea party:
These teas are best enjoyed after a meal or at tea time. Because of their very light and subtle taste, white teas generally only complement foods without strong flavors such as a very mild and plain white rice dish.
These lighter teas are best enjoyed at tea time or during light meals, especially ones with seafood, chicken, salads, and rice dishes. Green teas are also a great choice to serve after a meal, either alone or with a dessert and fruit.
Because oolong tea is like a hybrid of green and black teas, it generally goes well with the same foods as both. Some oolongs tend to be closer to a green tea and others are closer to a black tea, so keep in mind where your oolong falls on this spectrum. A “greener” oolong will complement the subtler flavors of seafood and a “blacker” oolong tea will complement the stronger flavors in many meats and spicy dishes.
The strong, full-bodied flavors and aromas of black teas suit foods of a similar strength and heartiness, especially richly flavored meats and spicy dishes. Black teas also pair nicely with eggs, cheeses, breakfast foods, and complex desserts. Black teas, especially Irish Breakfast, English Breakfast, andAssam, are great morning drinks. The stronger flavors and higher caffeine content of black tea helps us to feel awake and refreshed. It is also worth mentioning that there are a few black teas with lighter flavors than the others.Darjeelingtea pairs nicely with baked goods like cookies and is more perfect for tea time or a light meal than for a hearty supper.Ceylonteas fromSri Lankaare also better with lighter meals and are especially wonderful with tea sandwiches.
Pu-erh tea is known for aiding digestion and this makes it an excellent tea to drink after a heavy meal. During the meal, it can be served with very hearty or richly flavored dishes and it pairs well with fatty foods like meats and oily foods like stir-fries.