It’s always heartening to find that every time I present a session on pairing our favorite beverage with other than a scone or a cookie, there is an appreciative and enthusiastic audience. What I thought might have been self-evident over the years has turned out to be anything but. Comments such as “I never thought of that, ” “I have been drinking tea for years but have never tasted it with cheese” and others like these which confirm the validity of what I have been thinking about tea for many years, i.e. that it is more than an able sidekick to foods–cheese and chocolate–the foods that I like to feature in these sessions (the recent LA International Tea Festival at the Japanese American National Museum is a case in point).
It makes perfect sense that foods where fat plays an important role in transferring flavor to the palate, enjoying tea hot or even warm “opens up” the flavors in the cheese and the chocolate. Accentuating the salty finish of the cheese when it melts and blends into your mouthful of tea is a pure pleasure on the tongue. Even the complex flavors of delicate green or oolong teas shake up the tea and food equation in a provocative but delicious way. And believe it or not, black teas from India or China, from Darjeeling and Assam to Lapsang Souchong are appropriate partners to blue cheeses from California, France, Italy and beyond. The salty creamy funk of these cheeses is somewhat tamed by the tea. There is a back and forth pas de deux between the tea and the cheese, each transforming the other, in a most unexpected way.
Here is a digest of a savory pairing to get you started on the tasting journey. I hope this inspires you to add an extra course to your holiday menu. Here I offer one goat cheese and two anything-but-saintly sinfully delicious cheeses from France. Be sure to serve the tea hot and the cheese at room temperature for maximum impact.