Pairing Nepali white tea and cheese
It's no secret that I’m an epicurean tea drinker. I find pleasure and excitement in the taste of tea and in pairing it with fine foods. Indulgence, beauty and deliciousness are the principles I live by. I’ve paired tea and cheese many times before and it never ceases to amaze me how two things that are so different can go so well together. You guys love it when I put together a cheese board to pair with tea, so I’ve decided it was high time to do it again.
I started with my tea of choice and gathered 4 cheeses. Instead of only introducing you to the one cheese that worked best, I’m describing the whole process, so that you can follow along the trial and error phase. Alternatively, you could start with a cheese of choice and gather different teas to pair with that cheese. The tea I selected is a Nepali white tea by Nepal Tea Llc. I had met Nishchal Banskota, founder of the company, at the San Francisco International Tea Festival last November and he kindly sent some tea samples my way.
The White Prakash tea is grown at an altitude of more than 6000 feet in the most eastern part of Nepal. The processing entails a withering stage (50%), about half an hour of machine rolling and then electric drying. I prefer to use my gaiwan even for teas that are not traditionally brewed gongfu style, because it gives me more control over the brewing variables.
Tea Name: White Prakash
Ingredients: white tea
Harvest: June / July 2017
Preparation Method: porcelain gaiwan
Leaves/Water Ratio: 4 gr to 5 oz / 150 ml filtered water
Water Temperature: 180 F / 82 C
Steep Time: 1 minute, 1:30, 1:45, 2 minutes, 3 minutes
dry leaves: dark grey leaves, loosely twisted lengthwise, some of them attached to a silver bud, small green leaves and leaf fragments, fuzzy silver buds. Its appearance reminds me of a Bai Mu Dan or similar white tea from Fujian.
wet leaves: bright green and light brown, buds, small single leaves and one leaf and one bud
liquor: straw yellow
dry leaves: sweet, notes of orange blossom water and aniseed
wet leaves: (I warmed up my gaiwan with hot water and after I emptied it, I put my dry tea leaves in it, closed the lid and gave them a shake) pleasant notes of roasted artichokes. After brewing, the wet leaves gave off savory notes of fresh bell pepper.
liquor: sweet, floral notes with hints of honey
liquor: slightly floral and peppery on the first steep, ever so slightly astringent with notes of dried lavender and orange blossom water on the second steep. The last steep (5th, with longer infusion time) drew out a lot of sweetness and floral notes, with almost no astringency.
MOUTHFEEL: light-bodied and flavorful, clean aftertaste lingers
FOOD PAIRING: Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Toma (see below for further details)
OVERALL IMPRESSION: it's a very unique tea, with unexpected flavor and aroma notes that I’ve never had in any other white tea before.
THE CHEESE BOARD
Comté: a semi-hard French cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk, Comté has a complex flavor profile with nutty and caramelized notes. It’s a very bold cheese that draws out the peppery notes from the White Prakash tea, without canceling out its flavor.
Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Toma: an award-winning, semi-hard cheese made from pasteurized cows’ milk and aged for 90 days. It’s creamy and buttery with a grassy tang finish. It’s the most balanced pairing for the White Prakash tea, which enhances the pleasant notes of grass of the cheese.
Atika Goat and Sheep milk cheese: an award-winning farmstead cheese from Marin County, California. Atika is made with a blend of sheep and goat milk and it’s aged between 3 and 6 months. It vaguely reminds me of an Italian pecorino cheese. Its flavor profile is buttery and tart with notes of nuts and grass. It makes the tea taste sweeter and less astringent and peppery, but I can’t taste the tea very much. Such a shame this pairing doesn’t work very well, Atika is one of my favorite cheeses ever.
Bellwether Carmody: made from pasteurized Jersey cow's milk, Carmody is a semi-hard cheese from Sonoma County, California. Its buttery flavor with slightly acidic, tangy notes draws out the floral notes from the tea. A good tea and cheese pairing, but not the very best for the White Prakash tea.
Interested in the White Prakash tea? Find it here.
Disclaimer: Tea sample provided for review by Nepal Tea Llc. I purchased the other ingredients for my cheese board with my own money. This is my honest opinion. I am not affiliated with any of the brands mentioned.