Cheese and Tea

I’ve had some fun matching teas and cheeses recently with Angelina of Tea and Sympathy. While tea may not initially seem to be the most obvious companion to cheese, they actually have a lot in common. Both tea and cheese share a special bond in that they both come primarily from a single key ingredient yet their final characteristics can vary so much to reflect where and how they were produced.

Like wine, tea contains tannins, which help produce its’ complex tastes, aromas and colours. Some teas, such as black teas or oolong are tannin rich, while others, such as white tea or green tea contain very little tannins. While we tried not to get too bogged down in pairing mumbo jumbo, there is definitely something to be said for finding the right balance between tannins and the taste/texture of the cheese. We also found some interesting combinations based on matching both like and contrasting flavours and also pairings based on similar processing methods.  But the only real way to determine if a pairing will work is to experiment and taste it!

Some of my favorite combinations so far have been:

Mimolette and Honey OolongWe thought these were a fascinating pair – not just on the basis of flavour matching and the bright orange colour of both the tea and cheese but also given the relationship that both tea and cheese have with bugs! One of my favourite cheeses, the French Mimolette, gets its pock marked rind from cheese mites that are introduced to the cheese during ripening in order to encourage tiny holes in the rind that allow the cheese to breath. Similarly, the Taiwanese Honey Oolong, develops its natural honey flavour in part due to leafhoppers that nibble on the tea leaves.

Gorgonzola Dolce and Alishan Green  – Both Gorgonzola Dolce and Alishan Green are sweet versions of savoury products. The tea provided a refreshing balance to the beautiful creamy mouth-feel of the Gorgonzola.

Pyengana Cheddar and Alishan Autumn Oolong – Prior to tasting this combination, Angelina described the flavour of Alishan Autumn Oolong to me as being biscuity. I thought it would be interesting to see whether we could re-create a ‘cheese and crackers’ type scenario using a beautiful cloth bound cheddar – it worked!

If you are interested in finding some more great combinations and learning more about tea and cheese in general, Angelina and I are hosting a tea and cheese class on Saturday 19th May 2-3:30pm at Tea and Sympathy

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