Forget wine and food pairings (or even beer and food). That’s old school. The newest trend is pairing delectable foods with aromatic tea blends, which deliver both taste and health benefits. For instance, if you’re a diehard coffee drinker, Dr. Frank Lipman writes in his book “The New Health Rules” that “Switching to green tea not only cuts a bunch of hard-to-digest dairy from your day, but also strengthens your immune system, helping to arm you against cancer and heart disease.” Black tea also has proven health benefits.
According to Chanda Beppu, Director of Food and Beverage for Teavana (which was acquired by Starbucks a couple of years ago and now has tea bars that pair food and tea), it’s important to choose foods and flavors that complement your tea rather than overpower it. “Coffee can stand up to robust flavors in a way that tea can’t,” she says. That means chocolate is a no-no with tea, but pear slices and bleu cheese are a yes.
Here are three pairings you might consider:
The tea: Dragonwell green tea from China. “It has a slightly sweet, vegetal aroma, a mellow, smooth, chestnut-like flavor, beautiful jade green color, and lingering sweet finish,” says Cynthia Gold, a renowned Boston-based tea sommelier and lead author of “Culinary Tea.”
The food: Dragonwell is a little astringent and nutty tasting, so it tones down strong cheeses such as Brie, Camembert and Gruyere. It also goes well with seafood, fish, fruits and custards, says Gold.
The tea: Masala Chai from India. “Masala is a spice blend and chai literally means tea, so masala chai means spiced tea,” according to Gold. It is steeped in water or milk and sweetened.
The food: Pair with grains such as rice and oatmeal for a hearty meal.
The tea: Pu-erh black tea from Yunnan, China. “This earthy aged tea from the Yunnan Province (sometimes nicknamed “dirt tea”) is not to everyone’s palate, but it is worth acquiring a taste,” says Gold. It has richness and aroma and is traditionally served after a meal as a digestive.
The food: Pair with most meats and poultry. “A well-aged Pu-erh is the ideal way to end a very rich or heavy meal or pair against any high fat or greasy dish,” according to Gold.
Disclosure: Teavana invited me as a guest to the opening of their store in NYC and gifted me with several teas and a tea dispenser.