Here at Plum Deluxe we think tea can pretty much go with anything. This is because there are so many varieties of tea and an infinite number of tea blends that it’s pretty easy to find a pairing that works. We have paired tea with cheeses and tea with soups, and now we are talking about pairing tea with liquor.
Knowing what liquor goes with tea is kind of one of those things that’s really up to the mixologist, or the drinker. It’s not a common practice, which means that the sky’s the limit when you are trying to come up with your own tea cocktails. We took the time to chat with some professional mixologists and came up with a few tips to help guide you.
For starters, take some time to taste and consider the tea you would like to pair with. The three main things to think about while tasting the tea are its botanicals, the concentration, and its color.
The botanicals are the flora that makes up the tea. Is it flowery, earthy, bright, or something else? Many herbal teas are botanical forward, meaning that their flavor is derived more from flowers or herbs. These pair well with botanical forward liquors, such as gin. A stronger flavored liquor such as a spiced rum can easily overpower the delicate flavors of herbal teas. However, some herbal teas can contain strong flavored spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom, which would pair well with a stronger liquor.
When thinking about the concentration, consider how strong a flavor you want get from the tea in the final concoction. If you are looking for a stronger tea flavor, brewing a more condensed tea is very important. Infusions such as syrups are often the easiest and most common method used to help control the flavor. By brewing a strong tea and making it into a syrup, you have more control over the concentration. While creating a paired drink, simply add more of the flavored syrup in increments until the desired flavor is achieved. Additionally, the heat used to create the syrup helps pull more tannins from the tea, just like when brewing a cup of tea to sip.
Next, the color should be considered. Typically, a tea that is darker in color is also going to have a richer flavor and therefore should be paired with a darker liquor that has a similarly rich flavor. Furthermore, light colored teas pair much better with light colored liquors. Again, consider herbal teas. These tend to be lighter in color and therefore pair well with lighter alcohols, such as gin or vodka. A black tea, such as Plum Deluxe’s Comfort Blend, is something that can stand up to a darker liquor such as whiskey. To take this concept even further, you could pair flavored teas with similarly flavored liquor. In our earlier example, a spiced rum could accompany a strong chai. Remember, it’s easy for teas to become overpowered by liquor, so when in doubt begin with lighter liquors.
Finally, remember that mixology is not an exact science, because flavor is subjective. You may have to experiment with a number of different combinations to find one that works for you, and that same combination may not work for someone else.
Now that we’ve discussed the basic concepts of what liquor goes with tea, it’s time for you to experiment. Why not make it a party? Try making some tea infused syrups and then lay out a number of different liquors and garnishes. Let your guests experiment for themselves and give them cards to write down their favorite combinations. Try to remember that while this guide is a good place to start, the final say is really up to the person enjoying the pairing, so again the sky’s the limit.