Pairing teas has always been part of our lives growing up. From the salted, candied, cookied or fruity snacks, given to us during tea sessions, to the teas selected during meals, we reminisce on what we use to eat while sipping on a cup of tea. Lately, we’ve been traveling to numerous areas to promote the notion of tea and have met some interesting people along the way. With new acquaintances comes new experiences and we’ve tested teas with certain pairings of whiskey, cigars and foods.
Whiskey and Tea
We’ve been traveling around Los Angeles to Las Vegas, during the SW Tea Fest, and the late-night conversations with fellow tea enthusiasts and vendors sometimes ends in the enjoyment of a glass of whiskey or bourbon. One night, we got a bit ambitious after a tea session and thought of experimenting with pairings of tea and whiskey. At the time, we had some leftover Biluo Chun green tea from our demonstration and thought about its contrast with the Nikka Coffee Grain whiskey we were nursing. The whiskey had nodes of oak, toffee and a slight hint of jam. We always love experimenting with contrasting elements to see if that provides a good pairing and the Biluo Chun stood out with its grassy, green bean, creamy and its slight sweet peachiness.
What surprised us was how this green tea enhanced the whiskey. The tea’s grassy and cream nodes toned down the overpowering oak within and brought forth the toffee flavor within the whiskey. We were also able to better taste and identify a secondary characteristic of jam and felt it was due to the slight peachy sweetness within the tea. The Biluo Chun was probably on its forth infusion and cooled down to a lukewarm state. We had this tea on the side while drinking the Nikka whiskey neat. The experience was most enjoyable as the two beverages paired well with each other while bringing out certain elements within the whiskey.
Cigars and Tea
On occasion, we’d fire up a cigar to enjoy outdoors or in the company of cigar enthusiasts. Eventually, pairing teas with cigars was inevitable with the crowds we would hang out with. To me, in theory, tea never seemed to be a good pairing when smoking a cigar, but then again, I’ve always preferred the full-bodied cigars which had a stronger mouthfeel. When we decided to brew up some tea to drink during a cigar session, I choose a medium bodied Arturo Fuente Hemingway compared to what I usually would pick up in a humidor. One of the most consistent cigars I’ve ever encountered, and after witnessing my college roommate smoke this on a regular basis, I decided to go with what familiar and proved itself to be a quality smoke.
I popped some Alishan oolong bulbs in my infuser mug, and started off on my cigar while the tea steeped and cooled down. The first half of the Hemingway was a very woodsy and peppery smoke. The creaminess of the Alishan toned that down a notch while making both the cigar and tea very soothing to enjoy. The creaminess of the tea melted in with the cedar nodes of this Hemingway while the florals complemented the earthy wood tones wonderfully. The last third of the cigar melted into a thick cream which coordinated with the later steeps of the high mountain oolong as it blended together with the spinach and sweet tones towards its later steeps. Overall, both the Alishan and Hemingway reminded me of a string and piano music duo where one complemented the other and comes in at certain moments to lift the performance into an entirely new level.
Food and Tea
Breakfast is a big tradition in our family and they come over to visit in masses during winter season. Being one of the early risers, this normally designates me as the chef for our first meal, and I’m a fan of whipping up a traditional American style breakfast with eggs, bacon, and hash browns. Instead of putting on a fresh pot of coffee, I normally enjoy pairing a hearty breakfast with a Taiwanese Assam. Compared to its Indian older brother, the Taiwan version is a bit softer with floral nodes that results from the terroir.
Similar to how a Cabernet wine cuts through the fat and oily sensation when eating a steak, the same applies for the Assam and bacon. The robust earthy and floral tones from the tea goes extremely well with the smokiness of the bacon as the two harmonizes with one another. The tea also acts as a palate refresher for the next bite of bacon or aids in tasting other parts of the meal. Overall, we love this pairing because it allows us to consume more bacon and not be overpowered by its heaviness!
We hope you enjoy what we’ve learned during our experiences in the past few months. Stay tuned for our next post which will focus on Tea stories during our sourcing journeys!