Best Tea and Food Pairings

Global tea, tea and food pairingsLike wine, tea is a robust and complex beverage with seemingly endless variations. Therefore, pairing tea with food is no less complicated than choosing wine pairings. Fortunately, there are some simple, logical guidelines to get you started. As you develop your palate and expand your knowledge of tea, you will be able to branch off the basic recommendations to create your own signature pairings.

Qualities of Tea

Each tea is an individualized blend of complex notes, yet all of these qualities can be summarized in three basic categories: aroma, texture, and taste. Fortunately, everyone has at least a small food-related vocabulary, allowing you to describe what you experience.

  • Aroma: Prepare a cup of your favorite tea, and then deeply inhale its scent without tasting it. Does it smell floral, or nutty, or something else? Is the aroma subtle and hard to notice, or is it bold and obvious? Inhale a little more deeply. Can you pinpoint a specific scent? If not, don’t worry. The point is just to become more aware of the aromas of individual teas.
  • Texture: Sometimes referred to as “mouth feel,” texture simply refers to how your mouth interprets the tea. Take a sip and hold it in your mouth without swallowing. Does it feel buttery, tangy, crisp, or refreshing? After you swallow, does it leave a sensation behind? Try to describe that sensation, remembering to focus on feel rather than taste.
  • Taste: What flavors can you pick out? Do you taste peaches or apples or some other fruit? Is the tea smoky or woody or nutty? Try to categorize the tastes, such as “fruity” or “earthy.” Take note of the general tastes that are apparent to you.

Matching Qualities to Foods

Different foods also have different aromas, textures, and tastes. A good rule of thumb is to pair teas with foods that match some or all of their qualities. For example, you might choose a bold, tangy, woody tea with a hearty barbecue meal, or a crisp, fruity, subtle tea with a light salad.

Counterpoints also work well. A refreshing, fruity tea might be just what you need as a palate cleanser between heavy dishes at a formal dinner. In addition, you need not try to match all of the quality dimensions to the meal. For example, a citrus tea pairs well with fish, even if it has a floral aroma that doesn’t quite seem to match.

Pairing by Variety of Tea

Although each variety of tea offers numerous variations on aroma, texture, and taste, it can be helpful for beginners to start by pairing up certain varieties of tea with different dishes. As you gain knowledge and experience, you can begin to experiment with more specific pairings.

  • Black tea: The most familiar type of tea to the majority of Americans, black tea is bold, flavorful, and heavily caffeinated. It pairs well with milk, making it a good choice for coffee drinkers who are just entering the world of tea. Due to its robust flavor, black tea is best paired with strongly flavored foods such as hearty meats, spicy foods, sweet desserts, and even chocolate.
  • Green tea: With a more subtle, vegetative taste than black tea, green tea works very well with mildly flavored foods. Fish and other seafood, chicken, rice, and melons are among the best choices. Keep in mind that some green teas have fruity additives, while others have a smoky note that cuts through greasy fried foods. Regardless, any strong or sweet foods will overwhelm green tea.
  • White tea: White tea has a very subtle flavor, so it goes best with extremely mild foods. Plain vegetable salads with little or no dressing and very mild fish create the best pairings. Many people also choose to drink white tea alone, perhaps sweetened with a delicate honey, to truly appreciate its subtle notes.
  • Oolong tea: Oolong teas run the gamut from light to dark, and each has its own qualities. In general, light oolong teas are sweeter, with a bold floral aroma. They pair well with decadent seafood dishes and lightly salted items. Dark oolong teas are bold and robust, and stand up well to dark or gamey meats such as duck. Dark oolong is also a good choice for desserts sweetened with brown sugar or maple syrup.
  • Pu-erh tea: Heavy fermentation creates a strong earthy flavor in pu-erh tea, which stands up well to oily fried foods. This tea also helps to aid digestion, making it a great complement to a heavy meal.
  • Chai tea: This robust blend of black tea and strong aromatics makes it a natural fit with foods that match one or more of its components. Cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and cloves are among the most common ingredients, so pair it with foods that have similar flavor profiles. A particularly interesting combination is Chai tea and ice cream, as the cooling effect of the ice cream creates a satisfying mouth feel behind the bold tea.

Pairing tea with food can be as simple or as complex as you like. As long as you choose teas that don’t overwhelm the food and foods that don’t overwhelm the tea, you really can’t go wrong. As your knowledge and experience grows, you will begin to focus on specific notes and build your pairings around them. Ultimately, taste is subjective, and the right pairings are those that appeal to you.

At Global Tea Mart, we hope to become your online home for all aspects of the world of tea. If we can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to call us at 888-209-4223. We look forward to being a part of your journey!

Best Alcoholic Tea Drinks

Global tea recipesTea plays an important role in a surprisingly wide range of alcoholic cocktails. In fact, the entire idea of modern iced black tea has its roots in a highly alcoholic green tea punch that dates to the 1830s. While the original recipes were limited by the types of teas that were available in a particular place or time, that is no longer the case. You might enjoy a complex herbal blend or a delicate white tea rather than a traditional green or black tea. With so many teas readily available today, we encourage you to experiment with recipes to find the balance that best suits your individual tastes.

Hot Tea Cocktails

Warm alcoholic tea concoctions are an excellent way to beat back the chill on a cold winter night, but also serve a soothing and relaxing purpose throughout the year. The key to a successful hot tea cocktail is to begin by making the tea and then add the other ingredients as it is steeping. Many of these drinks can be tweaked to create non-alcoholic “mocktail” versions as well.

  • Hot Toddy: The hot toddy is arguably the most famous hot tea cocktail. A blend of tea, honey, lemon, and liquor, it is also one of the easiest to experiment with. Black and green teas are the most traditional, as they react well with the blend of honey and lemon to create a slightly sweet and sour note. However, virtually any type of tea could be used instead, especially if you tweak the amount of honey and lemon.

Whiskey, rum, and bourbon are the traditional liquors in a hot toddy, and each imparts its own unique flavors. However, there is no reason not to use gin, vodka, or any other liquor you prefer. Flavored alcohols can also enhance the taste, from spicy cinnamon to soothing apple.

To create a mock version, consider substituting apple juice, cranberry juice, or another flavored beverage for the liquor. You might need to tweak the amount of water in the recipe as well.

  • Hot Tea Punch: Hot tea punches run the gamut of styles and flavors, but are always heavy on the aromatics. Rum and red wine form the base for a heady, festive winter punch, while cranberry juice and apple cider are excellent additions to a lighter springtime punch. Brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and cloves fit well into virtually any hot tea punch.

For a non-alcoholic mocktail, substitute dark grape juice for red wine, use non-alcoholic cider, or choose molasses with nuts or rum extract instead of rum. You might need to fine-tune the amount of aromatics you use, as non-alcoholic versions tend to be lighter overall.

  • Chai Drinks: If you are familiar with Chai tea, you know that its spicy blend of flavorings pairs best with milk and sugar. Therefore, it is a natural choice for creamy hot beverages featuring Baileys, Kahlua, or other rich liquor choices. Be careful how much sugar you add, as these alcohols are already sweet. To get a mocktail approximation of this, stick to traditional Chai tea with milk and sugar, and add a spoonful of your favorite flavoring extract.

Iced Tea Cocktails

Iced tea cocktails are refreshing on a summer afternoon, and can be an excellent pick-me-up at any time of year. In these cocktails, the tea serves as a bold background flavor, so avoid choosing very delicate teas that might be overwhelmed. It is important to steep the tea using traditional warm methods to bring forth its natural flavors, and then thoroughly chill it in the refrigerator, freezer, or in an ice bath before mixing your cocktail.

  • Iced Tea Punch: The iced tea punch helped to spawn an iced tea revolution in the United States, and with good reason. Cold and refreshing, iced tea punches can be as simple or as complex as you prefer. Green tea is the traditional base, but there is no reason not to choose black tea or your favorite herbal blend instead. Focus on light alcohols such as vodka for an airy daytime punch, or add rum or bourbon for a more dramatic concoction. Lemonade, lime juice, or other citrus beverages are often added for complexity and to cut some of the alcohol.

A nonalcoholic version can be just as tasty as a punch with alcohol. Choose a bold tea, add multiple citrus juices, and top it off with a spoonful of flavoring extract or an herbal-infused simple syrup. Don’t forget to garnish with some fresh sliced fruit.

  • Flavored Iced Teas: Flavored alcoholic teas are extraordinarily popular and easy to make. For examples, with a bit of bourbon and fresh mint, you can turn your tea into a less-strong mockup of a mint julep. Flavored alcohols, strong aromatics, and fresh fruits can be combined in innumerable ways to create unique flavor blends.

Mocktail versions feature the same tea, aromatics, and fresh fruits, but leave out the alcohol. They are generally sweeter and less bitter than the alcoholic version, but otherwise taste very similar. Perhaps the best-known non-alcoholic example is the Arnold Palmer, which is simply half-tea and half-lemonade served over ice.

  • Iced Chai Drinks: Like their hot counterparts, iced Chai drinks marry the spicy flavors of Chai tea with their natural affinity for sugar and milk. Any milky liqueur can substitute for the milk, or you can simply add a splash of your favorite liquor to a traditionally prepared cold Chai tea. For a nonalcoholic version, add a bit of flavoring extract instead.

Alcoholic tea drinks have been an important part of tea culture since its earliest days. Like all aspects of tea enjoyment, it is filled with rich possibilities for exploration and experimentation. Take the time to try different combinations of teas, alcohols, and other ingredients, and you are sure to develop a personal favorite blend or two.

At Global Tea Mart, we hope to become your online home for all aspects of the world of tea. If we can be of assistance in any way, please do not hesitate to call us at 888-209-4223. We look forward to being a part of your journey!