Cynthia Gold’s Tips for Tea Pairing

Photo by Julian Landa

Photo by Julian Landa

I have long been an advocate of tea pairing to enhance the culinary experience.  I believe virtually every dish can be enhanced by pairing it with an appropriate beverage.  The right beverage, whether it be wine, tea, beer, saki, juice, or any beverage you can think of, if chosen with care, will bring a new dimension to the meal.  In the restaurant world, we tend to think of wine when we think about pairing during a meal, but very slowly, people are beginning to understand that tea can (and should!) be looked to for pairings.  Fine teas deserve the same respect and attention as fine wines and in fact have more parallels than many people realize.

If properly paired teas can enhance your meal, then this same approach should be looked at when a merchant considers offering samples to help promote sales.  When you believe in your products and their quality, then you know that by offering tastes, your customers will also see the value of what you offer and be more inclined to purchase it.  By carefully choosing a selection of items from the products that are offered for sale, you can use this tool all the more effectively.

In a typical gourmet shop, tea shop or cafe, there are so many possibilities for products to be sampled, that you could potentially choose products that would clash or compete with each other.  If you have a product that you’d like to sample out to increase the customer interest, than pair it up with another product that you offer that will show it at it’s best.  chocolateFor instance, if you have a rich full bodied Keemun or spicy Yunnan that you would like to show off in that days sampling, consider putting it side by side with a chocolate that you also sell to tease forward the cocoa and spice tones in the tea, or pair with your extra sharp cheddar to bring out it’s rich earthiness.  Perhaps show off your gingerbread or spice cookies with those teas.  If you have a complex, floral and astringent 1st flush Darjeeling to offer, sample that along side a rich triple cream to balance the astringency if you sell cheeses, or perhaps a pear preserve.   Want to sample out your Lung Ching Dragonwell?  Consider also offering tastings of mixed nuts, chestnuts or a well aged Comte or Gruyere.  The way they play off the nutty undertone of the Dragonwell is just lovely and balancing the salt with the slight earthy sweetness of the tea makes those pairing particularly successful.

By Cynthia Gold, Tea sommelier at L’Espalier, Boston