Tea & Cheese – East meets West

Tea & Cheese is perhaps the tasting experience where East meets West most dramatically. An explosion of tastes and sensations quite unlike any other and somehow unexplored until recently.

Whilst I’d like to say I was the first to discover this unique pairing, I can put myself in the handful of people around the world who have explored bringing these stalwarts of Eastern and Western cuisine together in the past few years. For me, I made the discovery about 6 years ago whilst indulging in a post-Waitrose cheese counter session. Ooops! A rather lovely Appenzeller got me thinking if ‘mouldy’ milk masquerading as cheese would work with ‘mouldy’ tea. The ‘mouldy’ tea in question being a yellow tea, which is made using a unique semi-fermentation process during production. Et Viola! Match made in heaven and still one of my favourite tea and cheese pairings today.

Tea & Cheese pairing differs from your classic cheese & wine in many ways. The most significant being that because the tea is hot, it adds an extra layer of sensation as it melts the cheese whilst combining with it in the mouth. Que a little fondue episode, privately having a party in your mouth as you take a bit of creamy Brie de Meaux with a sip of Japanese roasted Hojicha. Oooh ‘ello there! This, no matter how good the wine or champagne, is just something you will not and cannot get with any cheese &… pairing. Sorry, it’s a tea only kinda party.

The key with pairing any tea & cheese is to taste one, then the other, then hold a bite of cheese in the mouth whilst taking a sip of tea. Keep both in the mouth and let the party happen. Melting, textural changes (sometimes a kind of bouncy texture develops), taste changes and transmutations. Oooh it’s something like you’ve never had before. As an attendee of one of my first Tea & Cheese tastings put it “The best kept secret love story”.

When trying a tea & cheese pairing for yourself, don’t necessarily follow the light with mild, strong with a powerful approach that would be a cheese & wine pairing as the most surprising and unexpected pairings are waiting out there. Take a spicy and powerfully blue Gorgonzola Picante for example. Out of this world taste sensations when a paired with ever so light and floral Jasmine Pearls. Wow, just wow! The tea gently melts the already soft cheese, easing back the spicy blue flavours and imparting a wash of sweet creamy unctuousness with just the right amount of zing to make you go…aaaah. Separately delicious, together, sensational!

So next time you’re having a cheese board, or even just want a little indulgence yourself, break out some lovely tea and try it with your cheese. There are very few pairings that are unpleasant (avoid Japanese green teas except Hojicha). A bunch of pairings that are, well, yeah, ok. But best of all there are many that will amaze and excite you.

Here are a few of my favourites:
Brie de Meaux with Japanese roasted Hojicha
Any triple creme cheese with a light vegetal green like Long Jing
Cheddars with Assam or Ceylon
Tallegio with Oolong – green or dark Oolongs will give different experiences
Jasmine Pearls with almost anything strong and blue
Mature Compte with Assam
And of course, my favourite, Appenzeller with Yellow tea.

by Kyle Whittington – Tea Specialist – kyle-whittington.com
Images by Karin Pringsheim Photography

You can meet Kyle and get some top Tea info, at the Mindful Drinking Festival, 13th August 2017, Bermondsey Square, 12 noon to 6pm.