Recently I've been very interested in learning more about pairing teas with food, both sweet and savory. I believe it is important to realize how valuable the use of tea is as a pairing beverage when tasting chocolate and cheeses in particular. It is a refreshing alternative to wine, beer and other spirits especially when certain people are abstaining from alcoholic beverages.
I took a class at the World Tea Expo that focused on just this. We were first given a selection of teas and cheeses to pair with.
Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog (one of my all time faves), Bellwether Farms Carmody and Pt. Reyes Original Blue...
and some bread for cleansing the palate between tastings. We worked with three teas: (from left to right) Harvest Spring Sencha, Ti Quan Yin and Sessa Assam.
The tasting involved tasting a cheese/chocolate and then slurping all three teas and working down the line. Taking notes the whole time. It was surprising to see how the teas enhanced the flavors of the cheese. Some worked really well and some were just awful which makes you think about the impact a beverage like tea can have on a meal like Afternoon Tea (or even a tasting menu at a restaurant).
Guittard Chocolate Company: (clockwise) Soie Blanche White Chocolate, Soleil d’Or Milk Chocolate and Etoile du Nord Dark Chocolate. When tasting chocolate, it's good practice to inspect the chocolate first. Is it glossy? Does it have snap? Or is it gray or whitened in spots? Once you're done with the visual inspection, smell it and then taste it. Take notes on your experience.
When tea is brewed and served properly to bring out its best and fullest character, it has the potential to really enhance a sweet and/or savory dish. It is a wonderful accompaniment to a multi-course meal. The class was taught by Robert Wemischner who is an author, pastry chef and culinary educator whose long-standing interest in the flavor potential of ingredients has culminated in his latest culinary book, The Dessert Architect. I loved this class because I got to 1) eat cheese 2) drink tea and 3) eat chocolate. YUM YUM YUM.
I can't wait to keep exploring all the great cheeses out there and see how they pair with teas. I carry around this tea journal made by Moleskin when I travel around. I have a few from their Passions series. Keep track of everything. Trust me, you'll thank me later.