Farmer’s market season is gearing back up, plants are sprouting, trees are budding, and my palate is springing back to life as well.  So thoughts of loose-leaf tea and food pairings are once again helping to drive my weekend splurges.  This month, it’s cheese.  I love cheese, unfortunately.  I’m a total sucker for cheeses, and even the basic cheeses are a weakness for me.  Some of the things I have the most difficulty locking out of my mind when working to shed some pounds are pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches!
We tend to think first of pairing cheese with wine or beer, but it is such an important part of everyday meals in many Western cultures, that more often than not, cheese is likely to be consumed at meals without alcohol.  A general rule of thumb that clearly came out of my trials was that a delicate cheese should not be paired with a bold tea, or one that’s highly tannic.  The same goes for sharp cheeses – stay away from the tannins.  Another unexpected generalization I came to was that the medium-bodied Organic Jasmine Petals and silky-light Organic Monkey Picked White – both naturally slightly sweet teas – paired well with most any cheese.  So here are some of the other results:

  1. Swiss-style cheeses like Gruyere and Emmenthal went very nicely with a classic Ceylon or Keemun black tea.  I enjoy them with our organic Blue Mountain Nilgiri.
  2. The more delicate creamy cheeses were fantastic with a light and silky white tea – we particularly enjoyed our soft and ripe St. Andre with Meditative Mind.  If they’re herbed, serve them with a pure white tea.  And if you’re looking for the perfect black tea to pair these with, steep up a pot of Darjeeling – also light-bodied – and the astringency balances well with the creaminess.
  3. Cheddar’s best friend was, without a doubt, an Earl Grey.
  4. Blue cheese (my favorite is the organic brand of Roquefort, Papillon) was rounded out very nicely by my morning favorite, Bolder Breakfast loose black tea, and also worked sublimely well with the mellow Monkey Picked White.  Blue cheeses are traditionally served with sweet or dessert wines, and each of these teas brings a natural sweetness to the pairing.  Maybe because it’s such a favorite cheese of mine, I found that it paired with more teas as well – floral notes, present in Earl of Grey and Meditative Mind, blended nicely with the pungent blue cheeses, and Darjeeling, with its floral top notes, also worked well.
  5. Smoked cheeses we enjoyed most with the fruity notes of flavored black teas and Boulder Blues, which is a blend of Dragonwell, Sencha, wild strawberry, and rhubarb.  These worked especially well iced, alongside a smoked gouda, bacon, and Granny Smith apple Panini sandwich!
  6. Goat cheeses we can source locally here in Colorado, so we had three to try, and decided that the winning pairings were with the roasty, medium-bodied Thin Mint Green, a blend of Hojicha and Peppermint, and Bolder Breakfast, a strong black tea.
  7. Finally (can you believe we tasted these in two days?!), we found that the creamy Camembert and Brie cheeses were fabulous with a silky Earl Grey and medium-bodied greens – my favorite here was the Organic Jasmine Petals.

Now, how many hundreds of miles on the bike will I need to work off this experiment?!

For more on pairing teas with cheeses, also check out Susana Mojica’s post.