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Afternoon Tea - Food Pairing

Find out more about which foods pair perfectly with particular loose teas. Match up the tea you serve for afternoon tea to suit the food you’re offering.

With May looking set to have some fantastic weather, we thought we’d take a look at the various ways to help you make the most of it. As such, we’ve come up with some helpful suggestions for hosting your own wonderful afternoon tea party.

We’ve got all the basics covered from tips on the best tea to serve, ideas for great teaware options to serve it in, and even ideas for overall themes for the party to really make it something to remember. This week we’ll be lending some advice on pairing food with tea to really enhance the flavour and get your guests talking!

So read on to find out more about the basics of food pairing and which teas to serve with certain foods.

TASTE PAIRING WITH TEA - SOME BASICS

So why do we tend to match particular foods and drinks together? Well just in the same way as using the right marinade or seasoning can enhance certain meals, the right beverage can bring out the best flavour in the food, and vice versa. 

Much in the same way that a particular wine would be picked to compliment a meal, tea can also be used for the exact same effect. Tea is such a versatile drink; it can be paired with a wide variety of foods, from exotic and spicy Asian cuisine, to humble chocolate desserts.

Afternoon tea

When you think of afternoon tea, we’re sure that your imagination conjures up images of delicious sweet treats, cute finger sandwiches and long afternoons in the sun. Afternoon tea is not just a time for a snack, it’s the perfect opportunity to relax and indulge, so treat yourself. Whether you’re a savoury person, or into something a little sweeter, you can select a blend of tea that will enhance your taste experience.

Our selection of Premium Loose Teas

Before we delve in to which teas to serve alongside which foods at an afternoon tea party, it’s worth taking a look at the main types of tea and the foods which compliment them the best. We’ve included a few examples of tea from our Premium Loose Tea range, as these teas are really the best in terms of unlocking the full-flavour potential. Each different tea has come from its own region of the world, each with its traditional cuisines, and we think that tea deserves its own place alongside wine for exploration and enjoyment in the culinary arts.

Black tea

Black tea has a full and robust flavour, therefore the foods that go best with it should ideally be the same as you don’t want one flavour to dominate the other. Teas such as our Finest High Grown Ceylon and Finest Darjeeling, which have smooth and citrusy flavour, perfectly enhance sweet desserts such as a cheesecake. The flavour of Darjeeling is the perfect complement to a creamy dessert such as trifle or even an éclair; it’s the richness of tea’s flavour and the cream that work so well together.

Smoky and earthy teas such as Finest Kenyan or Finest Yunnan bring out the richness in savoury snacks, but also compliment pastries expertly. You’ll also find that a delicious Lapsang Souchong is the perfect finishing touch to a sweet chocolate cake.

Green Tea

Green tea has a subtle vegetative flavour to it, making it the perfect companion to mild flavoured foods such as seafood, chicken or a stir fry. Our own loose green teas such as Assam Green have a fresh grassy flavour to them which will work well with a sandwich or salmon blini.

More fruity green teas such as High Grown Ceylon Green and Finest China Green have a light sweetness to them that would fit as an accompaniment to fruit salads and pastries, whilst also being a great choice for iced tea. If you find yourself reaching for a strawberry tart first then make sure you’re washing it down with a sip of one of these two green teas.

White tea

White tea has a light, silky and subtle flavour, if paired with anything too strong, the natural sweetness of the tea might be lost.

A delicate tea such as Okayti White Darjeeling and its soft citrus undertones would go well with lightly flavoured foods. It’s ideal for your afternoon tea if you want to keep your snacks light and refreshing. Opt for a cucumber sandwich or sip your white tea before you start to nibble to cleanse the palette and whet your appetite.

Oolong tea

The more complex flavour found in oolong makes it pretty much an all-rounder for finding food to pair it with, if you’re planning to sample a little bit of all the food available at afternoon tea or unsure what your guests will like to eat then Oolong is a safe bet.

Lighter oolongs such as Indonesian Oolong have a wonderfully fragrant and aromatic aroma, to try something a little bit different pair with a salty savoury snack to enjoy the contrast of tastes.

Whilst the darker oolongs like the Taiwanese High Mountain Oolong have a velvety smooth intensity that works well with stronger foods like smoked meats, so opt for a smoked ham or salami finger sandwich with your cup of Oolong.

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN

With the full range of tea available, it can sometimes be a bit daunting to whittle them down when deciding on which to use for your afternoon tea party. Aside from the ideas above, the food you’d most likely want to serve up for afternoon tea may just be some simple sandwiches, cakes and desserts. As such, we’ve put together a few ideas for typical light bites and some great teas to serve alongside them. 

So to get started, it goes without saying that an afternoon tea party just wouldn’t be complete without some classically simple finger sandwiches…

Ham and mustard: The rich flavours of ham and mustard are perfectly complimented by a full-bodied tea such as the Numalighur Tippy Second Flush Assam.

Cucumber: A classic sandwich filling such as cucumber is well matched by the crisp, light and fresh flavours of the gently citrus Okayti White Darjeeling

Coronation Chicken: A well-loved favourite which is enhanced by our Finest China green tea. This tea makes a perfect palate cleanser, and the vegetative flavour of green tea helps to boost the richness of the sandwich.

Smoked salmon and cream cheese: The rich, strong flavours found in this classic sandwich filling are complimented by our favourite Smoky Lapsang tea. The tea leaves found in this tea are dried over pinewood fires, creating a smoky taste that suits the flavour found in smoked salmon perfectly.

And of course, as well sandwiches, afternoon tea has to include a few indulgent sweet treats…

Sweet citrus cakes: Earl Grey tea has a distinct citrusy flavour and is strong enough cleanse the palate and cut through the sharpness of citrusy cakes, bringing out the sweetness.

Cream tea and cream cakes: The strong and malty flavour of Assam black tea compliments creamy foods and provides a balance to the sweetness.

Chocolate teacakes: The perfect match for anything chocolatey is our extra special Nutty Chocolate Flavoured Assam. This tea will enhance anything with chocolate giving it a creamy, hazelnut twist, just like a praline truffle. 

Lemon cakes or custard tarts: Earl Grey and English Breakfast tea go wonderfully with any lemon flavouring, and are both full-bodied enough for strong flavours.

These are of course just a few simple ideas, but bear in mind which teas to use and push the boat out with some experimentation of your own. What better way to impress your guests than to have thoughtfully matched the food to the tea you serve?

Send us a tweet and get the conversation started with some ideas of your own for great tasting food and tea matches.

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