Tea can enhance and bring out the subtle flavors of food similar to wine. Deciding what tea compliments what food can be a wonderful learning experience. Some of the best pairings come from trial and error or success. To get started with making your own pairings here are a few tips to help in making your selections.
Start by deciding on the food you wish to serve for your tea. Today, we are not constrained by tradition, so tea tables can contain more than cucumber sandwiches, scones, tarts, etc. Many teas are themed or represent an event or person, so may consist of hearty sandwiches, soups, salads, whatever the host or hostess wishes to serve.
Know your teas. Each type of tea has some general characteristics that make them a good choice for certain foods and/or different times of day. Many breakfasts consist of omelets, frittatas, sausage or bacon. A robust Assam black tea or blend like English Breakfast, Irish Breakfast, Canadian Breakfast, Queen Mary or Kenyan tea make excellent accompaniments with breakfast foods; have a higher level of caffeine and pair with milk. If green tea is preferred try Pinhead Gunpowder or Irish Breakfast green tea. Not all black teas are strong and robust. Darjeeling teas often referred to as the champagne of teas is light and delicate and goes nice with dainty biscuits or cookies.
Think about the main ingredient of your dish. For example, if you are serving an apple tart try pairing it with a spicy tea like Mulled Spice or even Cinnamon tea. Earl Grey tea pairs fabulously with dishes with citrus as the main ingredient as well as dark chocolate. Raspberry flavored black tea is yummy with milk chocolate.
Green tea compliments most fish dishes. Try Sencha Genmaicha Houjicha Gyokuro all of which are Japanese green teas. Serve lemon green tea with tuna salad. The strong lemon flavoring pairs really well with the mayo and celery. If serving shellfish like scallops, lobster, or shrimp try an oolong tea. The natural light sweetness of Se Chung compliments the delicate sweetness of the shellfish.
Assam and Yunnan teas work really well with sandwiches made of beef, lamb, bacon, and fried chicken. Their robust flavor will not be overwhelmed by the strong taste of the different meats. Sandwiches made of vegetables or fish will be rounded out by a Ceylon tea or light blend like English Evening or Dragonmoon.
Most salads will pair nicely with a green tea. The strength is dependent of the ingredients used. If the salad has lots of strong ingredients such as tuna fish, celery, eggs, olives, etc. try a medium strength tea like Lucky Dragon. If a black tea is preferred pick a lighter tea blend like English Afternoon.
Tea can easily be served with main dishes when you keep in mind how the dish is prepared. Chinese green teas like Lung Ching and Jasmine have a flavor and aroma that pairs well with chicken. For a black tea try a Darjeeling from India. Assam teas from India are great for fried chicken, while Ceylon teas from Sri Lanka are perfect for roasted chicken.
Black teas pair well with foods that are usually paired with red wines such as veal, lamb, beef, and game. Black teas are full bodied that allow them to hold up to rich flavored meats. Try serving Ying Ming Yunnan Formosa Oolong or Pinhead Gunpowder with ground beef, roast, and brisket. Ceylon and Darjeeling teas will pair nicely with lamb. Try Lapsang Souchong or Keemun Three Monkey with steak.
Here are a few pairings that work well:
Hamburgers: Assam Nilgiri, Kenya
Try some of these tea pairings and discover some on your own. There is no right or wrong way to serve tea since it is all based on what you as well as your friends and families enjoy.