There are few things as pleasant in this world as a nice cup of tea or some delectable French cheese. Both tea and cheese play a large role in my gustatory life, each giving me their comforts. Tea is like a mother, always there for me to pick me up and warm me, sometimes with a bitter aftertaste of tough love. Cheese is more like an old paramour, a friend with benefits: not a constant delight, but, through the years, a regular and dependable one. One whose passion never fades.
With tea and cheese being so different from each other, I had never even fathomed pairing the two together. With tea I usually enjoy a dry cookie or some other form of light sweet. With cheese I usually enjoy a dry cracker or some other form of light bread. Yet earlier this month, I attended an event at the French Cheese Board in Manhattan, where French cheeses were expertly paired with teas by Bellocq Tea Atelier.
While the melanging of the two seems incongruous, they complement each other in an unexpected way. Isn’t it great when your mom likes your paramour? Perhaps with mother tea’s approval, it’s time to make this casual relationship more official.
When foods are paired together, they bring out different flavors in each other, but they also bring out different personas of the eater. Each pairing vividly creates a character on the palate. Thus, each pairing has been named with an archetype.
Tea: Aged White Peony
A cow’s milk cheese from the Savoie region, the Raclette has a semi-soft texture that tempers the forest flavors of the tea. This pairing brings out a deep feeling of peace, nature, and tranquility.
It’s decadence galore with these two. Brillat-Savarin is not a single, not a double, but a triple crème brie that melts as you eat it. It is named after the famous epicure Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who is known for saying, “Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell you who you are.” The Kikuya is blended with organic Japanese Sencha, rose petals, and has a buttery floral flavor that embodies luxury and laziness.
Tea: Shui Xian Oolong
A raw cow’s milk cheese hailing from the Jura Mountains, the Comté’s hard texture is an excellent match for the rock, or cliff, tea (as this special group of Oonlong teas is called). The smokiness of the tea brings out a jerky meat flavor from the strong cheese.
Tea: Gypsy Caravan
Camembert is well known for it’s soft texture and mushroom flavors. Gypsy Caravan, a blend of organic Indian and Chinese black teas, Bulgarian rose, and organic chili, mixes flavor from different parts of the world, giving it a nomadic taste. The wanderers’ tea paired with the hospitable, home-y Camembert gives the sense of traveling far, but always returning home.
Tea: Golden Pu’erh
One of Napoleon’s favorite cheeses, pungent Époisses has a strong kick to it. Pair it with a tea that carries a punch: the cave-aged Golden Pu’erh of Yunnan. These robust flavors stand up well to each other, and their match ends in a draw.
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