We humans are a little obsessed with pairs; from watching celebrity power couples to setting up our friends on dates to shipping fictional pairings in television shows and books, we like nothing more than a good romance. Unsurprisingly, we’re not much different when it comes to our food. Wine and cheese, wine and chocolate, and honey and cheese are all classic pairings we know and love. For goodness’ sake, we’ve even paired wine and candy! But a hot new couple has recently entered the scene and is ready to take your next party by storm. Let’s turn our eyes -- and palates -- to tea and cheese.
Like With Like
As with most pairings, like flavors will complement each other best. That means that white and green teas pair well with milder cheeses such as Brie, Swiss, and Manchego. The sweet, floral, and grassy notes of the tea can really bring out the same flavors in these cheeses! On the other hand, the smoky, caramel, and earthy tones often found in black teas stand up well to the bold, full flavors of cheeses like sharp, aged cheddar or smoked gouda. If you really want to up the smoke factor, try pairing a smoked cheese with a lapsang souchong. For something a little different, I like to pair matcha with a raw cow’s milk cheese, and I find that the bergamot notes in a good Earl Grey can really complement the flavors of an herbed chevré.
ServingSetting up the flow of your cheese and tea pairing is just like any other kind of pairing: start with the lightest flavors and work your way to the heaviest. If you’re not sure how your cheeses compare to one another, just look at the color of the tea you’ve paired them with; white and green teas will always come before oolongs and blacks. Check out our sample pairing menu, below, for our suggested order. Don’t forget to put out accompaniments and palate cleansers such as low-salt crackers, dried fruits, and nuts. If you want to level up in food pairing mastery, try pairing honey and cheese with your tea. Cheese should always be served near room temperature for the best flavor, so pull it out of the fridge 30 minutes before the tasting begins. Cover it with cling wrap to keep it from drying out. Meantime, make some signs describing the cheese and tea pairings so your guests know what they’re trying!
Sample Pairing Menu
Brie with Afternoon High Tea white tea Swiss cheese with Mango Apricot green tea Fresh chevré (goat cheese) with Mindful Morning Earl Grey Aged cheddar with Royale Assam Smoked gouda with Fireside Chat lapsang souchong
Make It a Full-on Tea Party
For those who want something a little more substantial than just cheese, you can use the same guidelines we just discussed to pair your tea with mac and cheese, cheddar quiche, or even cheesecake. You can also make things extra fancy and fun with baked cheeses and large pots of tea, or let your guests mix and match to see which pairings they like best. Don’t feel constrained by “plain” teas, either; you’re free to get creative with flavored brews such as citrus green, spicy chai, or chocolate hazelnut (especially if you’re doing cheesecake -- yum!). Go with what tastes good, and enjoy!
All photos are courtesy of the author.