Adventures of a Tea Trainer by Lucy Chappell
When we talk about tea and food, the first thing that pops into our minds is the age-old pairing of a ‘nice cup of tea and a biscuit’.
Biscuits are synonymous with tea. Are you a custard cream lover, rich tea fan or jammy dodger snaffler? Are you a timid dunker? Or do you live dangerously to see how long you can leave the biscuit in before it ‘plop’ falls into your milky tea? Whichever biscuit you prefer, to dunk or not to dunk, your personal preference is just absolutely fine and they all go perfectly with tea.
But let’s step out of your comfort zone for a second, instead of tea and cake, what about tea and steak? Yes, you read that correctly, tea and meat are fabulous partners, but I’m not talking about your usual tea and milk. Take Assam for instance. It is a rich, full-bodied black tea from north east India. It has a classic malty flavour like hops which pairs extremely well with red meat.
If we think about wine, red, white and rose are all from one plant Vitus Vinifera, but all wines have different flavours even if they are all red. The different varieties of cultivars and the terroir… soil, altitude, aspect... reflect the micro climate of the area in which the grapes grows, and all affect the flavour of the wine. This is the same for tea. All teas come from one plant, Camellia Sinensis, which has two main sub species - Camellia Sinensis Sinenis which grows at altitude and is generally lighter and fresher in flavour, and Camellia Sinensis Assamica, which likes lower altitudes and has a bolder, richer flavour. But a Sinensis Assamica grown in Kenya versus a sinensis assamica grown in assam has a totally different flavour. And so on and so forth. And this is why we have to think differently about tea and food.
Green teas are excellent with fish, chicken and are out of this world paired with cheese. Sencha and cheddar is fantastic, try it.
White teas are very light and delicate and can cleanse the palate, but they are also great with salads, fish and oily foods.
But we can go even further. Once we start to think about pairing food with whole leaf teas, then our options are endless. Earl grey and smoked salmon is a great combination, silver needles and artichokes, long jing with tuna, assam with beef and horseradish, English breakfast with a bacon sandwich, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Just as wine and food go hand in hand, so does tea and food. Remember alcohol is yesterday’s news and tea is the future. Millennials are ditching the booze for healthier alternatives and tea is perfect to fill that void.
And finally, as we always need to think about bottom line, pairing tea with food is great for business. In your coffee shop, it will increase your ATV. In your restaurant it will entice customers that don’t drink, and at lunchtime it is the perfect alternative to a bottle of wine. As always, think out of the box, ditch the tea bag and think of innovative ways to serve. Remember tea doesn’t have to be served in a mug. It doesn’t even need to be hot.
- Lucy Chappell is managing director and head of training at the London School of Tea.
- Lucy Chappell will be chairing the two opening sessions of the European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drinks Expo Tea Theatre, which is held in association with National Tea Day. She will also be running a Tea Theatre session every day.
- For more information on European Coffee, Tea & Soft Drink Expo, contact Sukhvir Hayre on +44 (0) 203 668 9809 or email email@example.com check out stand and sponsorship options
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