All in Pairings

Holiday entertaining. Tea and food pairings to wow your guests

With the holiday season officially in full swing, I look forward to holiday parties! I will attend an Alice in Wonderland themed party in December and I hope there will be plenty of tea. I will very likely host some holiday dinner parties too and I’m making a point of introducing everybody to the magic of tea and food pairings. If you, like me, want tea to be the star of your holiday celebrations, I have tried and tested some combinations that will sweep everyone off their feet, from appetizer to dessert.

My favorite smoky tea cocktail

Fall… the most nostalgic, sweet, smoky and luxurious of all seasons. The grape harvest, the weather turning chilly, we go back to craving hot tea, even though we never really abandoned it in the summer. When I was a child, fall meant collecting edible chestnuts with my dog, playing in the fallen leaves and trying to avoid the spiky chestnut pods (ouch, those spiky pods sting!). Chestnuts are delicious roasted on an open fire, they become soft, sweet, smoky and earthy. For me smoky and earthy flavors are the embodiment of fall, which is why I’ve created a tea based cocktail that brings all those notes together. 

My tasting notes: Tung Ting Mi Xiang oolong

How do you taste tea? I’ve realized that I need my “tasting environment” to be conducive and, most importantly, I need to be concentrated, especially when taking tasting notes. I’m very sensitive to sound and a quiet environment is essential for me. Also, a minimalistic and de-cluttered environment can help me focus on the task at hand. You want all your senses to be alert and not distracted by what’s around you. What do you think? What’s your experience?

Oolong tea and passion fruit affogato

Despite being located in California, San Francisco has little in common with the rest of the Golden State when it comes to its climate. Summers in San Francisco should not be called summers. Can we all agree on a different name, please? What do you call a foggy, overcast and cool season? Fall? Oddly enough, fall in San Francisco is the best time of year. We’re experiencing a heat wave right now and warm and sunny weather is expected to last until early November. No pumpkin-spiced anything for us, at least until then. To beat the San Francisco heat, I’m making plenty of ice cream. The best way to pair any ice cream with tea? Read on to find out! 

My tasting notes: Oriental Beauty oolong

Oriental Beauty is a “bug-bitten” oolong tea from Taiwan. Let's take a moment to appreciate a tiny insect, the tea green leaf hopper. The plant defense mechanism against the attack of leaf hoppers makes the tea delicious by releasing chemicals which contribute to its flavor. Read on to find out more.

My tasting notes: He Kai Shan Puerh

The weather in San Francisco is weird, there’s no other way to put it. We have a unique micro climate. So while the rest of the Northern Hemisphere is trying to survive the scorching heat of summer, we have to put up with the fog and lower-than-usual temperatures. August has even been renamed Fogust (= fog + August). It’s dreary and grey. For a tea drinker, it’s actually rather ideal. Did you know that the fog has a name?

Hugo: the European summer cocktail gets a tea makeover

Elderflower has a charming flavor with a very sophisticated profile, somewhat vintage-y, but very classy. It’s a flavor I associate with Austria. Chilled sparkling water with elderflower syrup is a popular non alcoholic summer beverage there. As it turns out, elderflower syrup is popular in cocktails too! The first time I’ve heard about the Hugo cocktail was in Austria, but - strangely enough - not until my recent trip to Europe did I fell in love with it. There’s no tea in the original version of the Hugo cocktail, but you know me, I can’t help myself ;-) 

My tasting notes: Jun Shan Yin Zhen yellow tea

Milan is well known for being Italy’s fashion and design capital, for its opera house La Scala and for its saffron risotto. Little did I know that I would find a less widely known Chinese tea there.
Braving the merciless afternoon heat, I made my way to Chà Tea Atelier, a specialty tea shop and tea room, where owner Gabriella Lombardi and I chatted over a cup of tea. Gabriella, who is the author of the book “Tea Sommelier”, travels to Asia every year and directly sources her teas. It was fun to hear her talk about China and the cultural aspects that made a lasting impression. 

My tasting notes: Organic Assam black tea

"I grew up on this estate, so for me Chota Tingrai is full of memories. The butterflies, the fresh smell of rain, the Tingrai river that winds its way through the estate, the sound of the crickets before a roaring thunder, and the loud rain pattering on the tin roofs and a sea of glowing fireflies are some of my favourite memories of the estate".

Avantika Jalan, Managing Director and Founder, Mana Organics

Matcha mochi muffins

Mochi muffins have become so popular in the Bay Area that I challenge you to find a cafe or tea house where you cannot get them. Their rise to stardom has been a quiet one, yet strong and steady. I keep seeing them everywhere. They’ve been in the news, they are on the menu at Asha Teahouse, Boba Guys serves them … need I say more? Despite being very curious, I had never tried them before (don’t ask me why). So I made them and suddenly realized what the hype is all about.

Tea and charcuterie

With World Tea Expo coming to a close, I’m a little sad that I I was not able to attend. To beat the blues, I turned to tea and food (so predictable, right?!) to cheer me up and ended up experimenting with some pairings I had never tried before.Drumroll, please...Let me introduce you to salumi, aka the cured meats of Italy. I have three tea and salumi pairings for you! 

Tea-infused Negroni, two ways

If you haven’t already, it’s time to hop on the Negroni bandwagon. Negroni, now ubiquitous, is an iconic Italian cocktail. Legend has it that Count Camillo Negroni invented it in 1919 in Florence. Why is it so popular? For one thing, it’s Italian, need I say more? (just kidding, of course). Well, it’s a simple recipe (just 3 ingredients in equal parts) and it doesn’t require any special bar tools. Nevertheless, it’s a very sophisticated cocktail. Its strong flavor, with bitter and sweet notes, might not be for everyone but palates have evolved to appreciate the bitter flavor in coffee and IPA beers, kale and dark chocolate, to name just a few examples. As it turns out, tea is perfect to create playful variations of Negroni, so without further ado, let me introduce you to the Tea-groni, two ways!