People who are new to artisan teas wonder what to eat with tea. When you explore past the grocery store shelves and brand-name teabags, it’s incredible how many choices there are. The experience is enhanced when served with a meal or snack.

Pairing tea with food is an adventure in flavors.

It is also a great way to get to know the variety in the world of tea. As tea drinkers get more experienced, they are more likely to drink more than one type of tea during the day. This is also because there are many more varieties of tea available. Tea provides an extensive range of tastes, similar to that of wine, but with a different world of nuances. Consider the basic types; white, green, yellow, oolong, black, dark, and of course, hundreds of herbal (tisane) blends. Combining Camellia sinensis, true tea, with herbs now offers thousands of possibilities. What can be a fun exercise in matching tea with meals might also be intimidating.

Tea-drinking practices are analogous to wine-drinking practices in that we can change teas between courses in a meal in the same way we switch between an aperitif and white or red wine later on in the meal.

Like a small mid-course or palate cleanser, tea also works as a flavor bridge from one course to the next. Discerning tea drinkers sometimes ask for two or three different teas at one meal. People have discovered that a stronger, smokier tea is better with cheese or eggs, whereas a lighter green or white tea is usually superior when served with pastries. It’s exactly like learning that red or white wine goes better with some foods than others.

For instance, last weekend, we served iced oolong with a hand-rolled sushi dinner. It was exquisite! After years of serving only Japanese green teas with sushi, it was a delightful discovery that the oolong was able to accent up and complement the diversity of flavors far better than a straight green tea does.

Also, serving an iced beverage at this summer evening party was definitely the way to go to help cool off! Even though we don’t often realize what we are doing, we unintentionally pair tea with food daily. Some people start the day calmly, with a weak cup of black tea and dry toast, and others start the day boldly with a strong mug of black tea and a well-buttered roll.

Tea has evolved for thousands of years along with regional cuisines to be the drink that goes along with meals. As more people integrate tea into their daily rituals, they discover that by pairing certain teas with specific foods, not only is the flavor of the food enhanced but the quality of the tea is highlighted.

You’ll find that when paired with the appropriate dish, tea helps to complete the flavor journey of that dish! Experiment and enjoy!

What goes with tea – For Breakfast?

Many of us love to start our day with tea. Just tea! The variety of choices here is as wide as the world of tea! Many people like to start their day with a green or an oolong tea, but there are others of us who prefer to hit the morning hours with a nice strong pot of Pu’erh, Assam, or Breakfast Blend. I’ve tried to join my boyfriend in his early morning green tea ritual, it’s just not something my stomach is prepared to do before having something to eatSome of this choice has to do with flavor preferences, but it also has to do with just how much astringency we can deal with first thing. Pu’erh, on the other hand, feels like a warm velvet blanket.

The traditional breakfast teas and blends are made of black teas. With pronounced tannins and a strong finish, they’re excellent with full-flavored traditional breakfast foods. Of course, getting one’s mind kick-started with a nice black tea is often helpful!

With lighter breakfast foods, such as a continental breakfast of rolls, fruit, cereal, and toast, the standards are Assam, Ceylon, Darjeeling, Kenyan, and Nilgiri black teas. For a more robust breakfast that might include eggs, meats, and cheese, you can easily pair it with the above-mentioned black teas. Or, you can choose to go with even stronger or scented teas such as Scottish or Irish Breakfast Blends, Earl Grey, and Pu’erh; these can all stand their ground to even the strongest-tasting cheeses. My personal favorite with bacon and eggs is a Green Pu’erh! I’ll drink this tea just to remind me of eggs and bacon when I can’t have them.

And lastly, we would be remiss if we failed to mention one of Pu’erh’s better-known features, as an excellent hangover cure, making it the beverage of choice for an otherwise painfully slow morning! Pu’erh is very smooth in taste and even darker than black tea. It has been shown to cut through grease (and cholesterol), help digestion (carminative), help warm you, help produce saliva and shake thirst, dispel the effects of alcohol, and refresh your mind. For those reasons, when we developed our own “Bolder Breakfast” blend, Pu’erh tea was chosen as the central ingredient.

What Goes With Tea – for Lunch?

As we make our way through our daily routines, there come times to rehydrate, refresh, and restore. Tea is the ideal noontime beverage, be it hot or iced, as it accomplishes all of these. After a good morning’s work, we’re ready to fuel up for the remainder of the workday, and replenishing our bodies with both food and liquid is critical to do mid-day.

Your caffeinated morning beverage selection is often the central figure on the breakfast menu around which breakfast foods you choose. At lunchtime, tea moves to the role of accompanist to whatever diverse food selections now take center stage. Lunch is the main meal of the day, where tea is the obvious choice of beverage for both wellness and culinary reasons, thanks to the vast diversity of tea types and flavor profiles available.

So keeping in mind that the teas mentioned here are meant to enhance your lunchtime dining, here are some of the combinations we’ve found to be well-balanced complements to lunch selections:
Best all-around lunchtime choices: lighter black teas (favorites are Darjeeling or Nilgiri), flavored black teas, smoother green teas (like Lung Ching, or an organic green I recently tasted from Yunnan…) and flavored green teas. We find that these teas pair well with most sandwiches and salads. Generally, green teas work better with lighter-tasting foods, such as poultry, fish, and vegetables.

Black teas will complement red meats more smoothly, as well as smokier fish. If you’re going with a scented or flavored tea, you can match or complement the flavor component with your food. For instance, with smoked salmon, I love a smokier black tea (Lapsang Souchong or Russian Caravan), or you can go with a complementary flavor – many love the citrus of Earl Grey with smoky foods. On the herbal side, Rooibos pairs amazingly well with many cuisines. Because I was relegated to caffeine-free diets several times, I came to love this calming and amazingly versatile beverage. It goes as well with Italian food as Mexican.

And keep in mind that all lunchtime tea choices can be served hot or over ice. Freshly brewed iced tea is an eye-opening luxury we can all easily afford on a daily basis!

This article has been updated from the original July 9, 2008 publication.

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