Most people know about wine pairing: wine enhances taste of food. I had been to a wine pairing that the host asked us to drink the carrot soup without wine first. Then take a sip of wine and drink the soup. Woah, the taste was radically different; and the flavors of the soup just exploded in the mouth.
Not many people know about beer pairing. And I was fortunate enough to be edified by the kind and passionate people at Big Bad Wolf.
Here comes Chinese tea pairing. The difference between Chinese tea pairing and wine/beer pairing is that the Chinese tea cleanses the palate but doesn’t radically change the flavors of the food. In general, the light-colored teas go with lightly flavored dishes while dark teas go with spicy and oily dishes, just like red wine going with red meat and white wine with white meat! Here are some suggestions:
1. Floral Tea
Examples: Chrysanthemum tea, Jasmine tea, Osmanthus tea, Rose tea.
Pair With: dim sum
Benefits: The refreshing fragrance rids of odors in siew mai and char siew. Floral tea is also known for its beautifying purposes.
2. Black Tea (also known as Red Tea) / Oolong Tea/ Green Tea/ Yellow Tea/ White Tea
I’m grouping the five teas together because the tea leaves are the same shrub. Because they come from the same shrub, they have dieting effects. In other words, the teas are generally suitable for oily or deep-fried dishes.
The difference between them is the amount of time taken to oxidize/ferment them. Fermenting just means leaving the leaves in a temperature-controlled room. The longer the leaves are fermented, the darker they are. In the list above, black tea is most oxidized to the least oxidized white tea. The longer the leaves are oxidized, the more it loses its chlorophyll, the more tannins are released. Tannins are, of course, found in wine too! The more tannins means that the tea will give a dry aftertaste, but it is also stronger in flavor, giving a robust taste.
2a. Black Tea/ Red Tea
Examples: Pu’er (actually Pu’er is post-black tea, it’s fermented even further than black tea but I’ll group it here for convenience) , 祁门红茶 (keemun red tea).
Pair With: Fried dishes (such as 锅贴, pan-fried dumplings); spicy dishes; fatty dishes (such as pork belly)
Benefits: Reduces cholesterol and fat; protects liver; reduces fatigue.
2b. Oolong Tea
Examples: 铁观音 (tie guan yin or in English, Iron Goddess of Mercy); and 岩茶 (yan cha or rock tea), also known as 大红袍 da hong pao, Big Red Robe.
Pair With: Fried dishes (such as fried pancakes) and steamed fish
Benefits: Slimming; prevents fatigue.
2c. Green Tea
Examples: 龙井 (long jing or Dragon well); 碧螺春 (bi lei chun or green spiral); 黄山毛峰 (huang shan mao feng or Yellow Mountain tip); 六安瓜片 (liu an gua pian or Liu An Leaf).
Pair With: Seafood, such as prawns and scallops
Benefits: Slimming; Improves eyesight.
2d. Yellow Tea
Examples: 君山银针 (jun shan yin zhen or Jun Mountain silver needle)
Pair With: fowl such as duck or chicken
Benefits: protects liver, reduces heatiness.
2e. White Tea
Examples: 白毫银针 (bai hao yin zhen or White Tip Silver needle)
Pair With: Stir-fried vegetables
Benefits: refreshes the mind, detoxing, reduces heatiness, slimming.
PS: Research is adapted from information over the internet and Tian Fu Tea Room at Park Royal Hotel.