Easy Tea and Cheese Pairing for Your Next Party
by Naomi Rosen
I love tea. I love cheese. If I were to make a list of all of the things I love, behind family and electricity would be tea and cheese. And Aerosmith but that has little to do with this article. Joy's Teaspoon recently hosted another of our Sip + Sample series with tea and cheese being the pairing of choice. We did a few tea and chocolate pairings back at the beginning of the year and I didn't think anything could top that. I was mistaken! It was a small group, but the flavors were larger than life and I am fired up to do it again. A pairing like this would be very easy to recreate as an appetizer for a baby shower, bridal shower, retirement party, or any other informal type get together. It puts a classy spin on the palate and truly is simple. Just a cheese knife and some hot water! These particular cheeses came from my local Whole Foods and, of course, I used Joy's Teaspoon tea blends. If Whole Foods or a local cheese shop are out of the question, you could use many of the cheeses found in your local grocery stores specialty cheese area. When considering which cheeses and teas to pair up, I used a few guidelines:
- We mixed up the textures of the cheeses. Edam and Manchego were firm cheeses, the brie was softer and the goat cheese was the softest.
- Choosing cheeses with different grades of strength created a great balance to the actual tasting. Not every cheese should knock your socks off with flavor or lull you to complacency either. The Gruyere gave us a milder version of a Swiss while the bite of the 5 year old cheddar shot through us like fresh horseradish...only much creamier.
- Have an idea of the flavor combinations you desire before looking at the 100's of cheese options. Seriously, it can be overwhelming. Do you want them all to compliment one another? Do you want each bite/sip to duke it out for your tastebuds? I had a list of teas that I wanted to use and made that my guideline.
- Don't be afraid to ask for samples (if possible) and ask questions. The people behind the counter can be a wonderful resource!
- Sencha + Emml Young Gruyere
- Tie Guan Yin + El Trigal Manchego
- Black Pearl + Kroon Edam
- Khongea Assam + Vermont Creamery Goat Cheese (with a touch of honey drizzled to cut the tart)
- Glenburn Darjeeling Second Flush + King Island Seal Bay Triple Cream Brie
- Lapsang Souchong + Black Diamond 5 Year Cheddar
- Earl Grey Crème + Cheddar Teahive
- Provide some other finger foods to cleanse the palate. I served sliced pears, apples and strawberries. Something to break up the richness of the cheeses without the flavor lingering.
- If possible, serve the softer cheeses on small sample spoons. I used crackers, and while they were good, they altered the flavor of the pairing. Not in a bad way necessarily, just took the focus off of the cheese and tea.
- Six tea/cheese combo's seems just right. It doesn't seem like much, but when you factor in a piece or two of cheese, the tea and the fruit in between rounds, you fill up fast.