Several years ago my husband and I dove into the world of the amateur herbal tea sommelier. In simple terms, a tea sommelier is a tea expert. The tea sommelier understands tea flavors, but they also understand how the flavors can work with and enhance the flavors in food. We wanted to explore the potential that tea had to transform meals and simply brighten the afternoon. For us, the sheer variety of flavor in tea created an unlimited potential for delicious food pairings. We decided we wanted to discover the simplicity of them all.
Pairing tea is truly never ending. So many teas exist, so many blends can then be created, and combine that with every type of food available in the world, the possibilities are endless. (If you need a quick primer on the different types of tea be sure to read Herbal Tea 101: Understanding the Different Types of Tea.)
Most Western tea drinkers abide by the unspoken rule for pairing: "Only black tea can be paired with foods.... all others teas must stand-alone." I want to encourage you to taste outside of that “box” and reconsider how tea can enhance your dining experience.
Although I believe there are no “wrong” pairings, as the tea sommelier it will be worthwhile to put a little bit of thought into your tea pairing before you get started. What are you favorite flavors? Do you prefer something bold or something more on the delicate side?Here are a few simple food suggestions to give you a starting place to stretch your tea pairing tastebuds.
If man has no tea in him, he is incapable of understanding truth and beauty.
Tea Sommelier at Home: Perfect pairings for herbal tea
There is just something relaxing about a day started with tea. My husband and I have a standing tea date together every Saturday morning where we sit down with our favorite mugs and just talk. Our children know to not interrupt our cherished few minutes each week. We love trying new tastes, but always seem to come back to the Rise and Shine Tea blend. We enjoy pairing it with this simple scone recipe found in the book Steeped: Simple Nourishing Teas and Treats, by Katherine Stanley, or by sitting down with a big slice of this Apple Cinnamon Nut Bread.
Other breakfast foods to try:
Have you considered tea as a perfect compliment to any mid-day meal? Many look to hot tea as only a breakfast or afternoon treat, but there is a world of exploration available and reaches far beyond a tall glass of iced black tea. A wonderful companion to a warm winter meal (like this Chili Mac recipe ) might be this Green Tea blend with Cinnamon.
Other lunch foods to try:
Much like lunch, dinner is also a forgotten opportunity to try a new tea. A delicate herbal blend like this can really center a meal built on chicken, seafood or even a simple salad. I personally love this Herb-marinated Lamb recipe for a romantic date night at home.
Pairing foods with a tea that is considered “brighter” in nature can add a great balance to heavier foods, such as Mexican, India, Italian or Asian dishes. A big bowl of this Curried Lentil Soup is a great meal choice paired with this Darjeeling Green Tea.
Other dinner foods to try:
Dessert is where I really shine. I love making raw food desserts and have found that the Black Spice Chai Tea, Christmas Tea Blend (which I enjoy year-round) or a simple mug of Jasmine. The teas above are rich, and taste perfect when complementing a number of different custards, chocolate desserts, or these mini Pumpkin Cakes.
Other dessert recipes:
Pairing food with the right tea is not an exact science, but rather more of an art form. Much like an artist creates his own personal style, our individual palates will dictate what type of tea is preferred.