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14 JANUARY 2021

Tea and food pairing...

It's been more than twenty years since the ground-breaking chef Michel Nischan decided to pair up his dishes not with wine but with high-quality tea at the Heartbeat restaurant in Manhattan.

Since then, combining a meal with tea has become more and more commonplace, providing an extremely interesting alternative for all those who do not wish to drink alcohol with their meal. And indeed, tea can intensify the experience of a meal in a way all of its own, bringing out sides to both the tea and the food hitherto unknown when taken in isolation.

In Greece, we might not find tea to accompany our meal, but our time-honoured tradition in wine growing and the drinking of fine wine to accompany lunch or dinner, helps us to appreciate the potential that tea has to accompany what we eat. 

Let us see then what tea we can choose to match our meal. A good start is to decide according to the nature of the food we want to combine it with. If we have a light dish with subtle tastes, such as with shellfish or prawns, we can choose a light tea of similar character, which won't ‘drown’ the delicate tastes in the dish. A green springtime Long Jing, for example. And if we are having a BBQ, the strong and smoky Lapsang Souchong will be a fitting choice to match our meat.



If we have a rich or fatty dish, we can choose a pungent tea to break up the oiliness of the food covering the inside of the mouth. A cup of first flush Darjeeling, for example, which is slightly sharp and also floral and muscat, will convey a very pleasant feeling to the mouth, after a nibble of a rich, creamy cheese, such as Brie, and will also allow it to melt in the mouth.

Also, we can work on the shared provenance of the tea and the dish, since a common background instils a harmony into the final match. Take, for example, Japanese teas which seamlessly accompany the Japanese culinary offering.

Finally, we can select the tea on the basis of whether we want them to complement or contrast our choice of food. In the first case, if for instance our dish is a confection, such as a cake, apple pie or something of the like, we can opt for a naturally sweet tea with aromas of ripe fruit and spices, such as Taiwan Dark Pearl which will bring the two into harmony. 



In the second case, we can juggle with contrasting flavours, combining, for example, a savoury salami or ham, with a malty, rich black tea, such as Assam Dikom.


And from here on let your own preferences when it comes to flavour and personal combinations lead you the way....


White tea

Subtle, sweet, airy in nature, white tea pairs up summer fruits such as honey melon, peach, apricot excellently with white fish as well as with white chocolate. 

Green tea from China

With roasted, earthy and plant tones, green teas from China can be combined with white meats, such as chicken and turkey, with seafood, such as prawns and shellfish, as well as with light dishes including salads and roasted vegetables.

Gunpowder Organic with tabbouleh 
Mao Feng with asparagus with butter sauce.

Green tea from Japan

Japanese tea, intensely fresh, green and cool, very well matched with fish and seafood, with sushi, vegetable dishes and rice-based dishes. Also blends well with tomatoes, invigorating the palate when combined with dark chocolate.

Genmaicha with salmon
Sencha Miyazaki with fish
Matcha with dark chocolate 



Green oolong

Green oolong brings the aromas of flowers, are sweet and have a rich texture. You can combine it with white, roast meats, such as turkey or chicken, with seafood and shellfish, as well as with milky, creamy desserts, such as custard or rice pudding. And of course, they go excellently with fresh fruit and chocolate.

Tie Kuan Yin with graviera cheese.

Dark oolong
Rich, very fragrant, usually with the aromas of spices and ripe fruit, and therefore perfectly matched with such foods as pastries and cakes, syrup desserts and pancakes. These teas also go well with something citrusy and are highlighted and highlight excellently when accompanying a fillet of roast fish, duck and stir-fry dishes.

Oolong aged 8 years with stilton cheese 


Black tea 

Strong in intensity and flavour, sometimes tart, smoky but also aromatic, black teas match beautifully with rich and spicy dishes, with roast meat, omelettes and english breakfast. They also accompany desserts excellently. A more aromatic, floral spring Darjeeling matches well with biscuits, scones and dishes containing eggs, while a Keemun or a Yunnan hong cha is perfect with dark chocolate as well as meat.       

Yunnan Golden Tips with dark chocolate 
Darjeeling Margaret's Hope TGFOP1 with foie gras


Pu’erh tea
Earthy, autumnal, full-bodied and known as being an excellent digestive, pu’erh is perfect when accompanying fatty and spicy foods with game, red meat and fatty fish, such as trout or salmon. It blends with other earthy foods such as celeriac and mushrooms, as well as melting wonderfully in the mouth with milk chocolate.



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