How to Pair Tea with Food

Pairing wine, cheese and tea is a growing area of culinary experience. A well paired cake or pasta takes a meal to the next level. We have seen more focus from the cafes that we support in pairing our teas to their menus. In one of our most recent tea blending courses, one of my students asked me what the art and science of pairing tea with food is all about.

There are 3 ways in which you can combine flavours (this can be applied more broadly beyond tea):

Pair by enhance

Use the tea to bring out something more subtle that exists in the food, enhancing the flavor. For example our Earl Grey tea has natural, organic bergamot (citrus) peel and oil blended into a black tea. When you know what you are looking for, the citrus can be spotted, but it is subtle.

Pairing Earl Grey with a lemon tart will enhance the citrus and be a delicate, implied association of flavors.

Pair by compliment

This is the easiest of food combinations where two of the same flavours are combined. Pairing our lemon myrtle and ginger with a lemon tart is the perfect example of this. The lemon from the lemon myrtle flavour with the lemon tart making a simple complementing strategy.

Pair by contrast

Pairing by contrasting flavours usually has a polarizing effect where one half of your dinner guests will love it, and the other half will say they love it, while secretly trying to get fluffy’s attention under the table to feed the dog your new mushroom-chocolate tart.

Lindt ventured into pairing by contrast when they created their sea salt chocolate and chocolate chili blocks. Our Monk’s Garden pu’erh tea pairs by contrast by combining an earthy pu’erh tea with lavender flowers and coconut.

Whatever the outcome, pairing food is a sure way to push your food skills and is have a bit of fun. As a starting guide we’ve recommended the following combinations with some of our most popular teas and tisanes:

Coconut Mint – Paired by enhancing to rice pudding

Lemon Myrtle + Ginger – Pair by complimenting with lemon sorbet (the temperature difference here makes for a pair by contrast in some ways as well)

Genmaicha Green – Pairs by enhancing a fried rice savory dish

Mint Variation – Pairs by contrast with a thick mud cake

Peacock Chai – Pair by enhancing with an Indian curry