People have been pairing wine with their food since the beginning of modern gastronomy, but recently a new trend has emerged. With the increasing focus on health-conscious dining, restaurants seeking to give customers alternative beverages to accompany their meals have done so by pairing tea with the food they serve. “Tea pairing” is now the cool alternative for customers who choose to abstain for religious reasons or because they do not want to drink at lunch.
It turns out that the many flavors and aromas of tea pair well with different kinds of dishes. For example, lighter tea such as TEASPEC’s Jade Allure (green tea) or Raw Dazzle (raw Pu-erh) pairs well with salad or seafood while stronger tea such as Oolong or Ripe Marvel (ripe Pu’er) goes well with meat or smoked dishes.
Raw Dazzle & Ripe Marvel
Consuming tea during meals is typical in Chinese restaurants where the tea is served in big pots and is shared by the whole table throughout the meal. Even for an ancient tea drinking culture, though, the quality and nuance of various teas are not something that restaurateurs actively educate their patrons about. As far as tea appreciation goes, individual connoisseurs may bring their own tea and ask the restaurant to brew it for them, but very few establishments have taken the initiative to differentiate and improve the variation of the tea that they serve. Likewise in most Western restaurants, tea is considered a beverage to be taken after a meal with dessert. So unlike wine, tea has not been paired with food to enhance flavor… until now.
In London, the fine dining Michelin-starred restaurant Fera, at Claridges, offered different tea pairings earlier this year with different courses of their meal to cater to business clients. In Singapore, the Hai Tian Lo restaurant at the Pan Pacific served tea-infused dishes with tea pairings to rave reviews while the French-Japanese fusion restaurant Beni has experimented with the same thing.
As more millennials choose to drink tea over alcoholic drinks for its abundant health benefits, both Chinese and Western restaurants are beginning to experiment with tea-infused dishes to meet increasing demand. However, to get it right, pioneering chefs must be able to infuse the right kind of tea in the right amount into every dish they serve. We still do not know how the industry will capture this growing trend, but we are looking very much forward to it.