Notes from Tea & Cheese Pairing session #4

Last Saturday we held another Tea and Cheese pairing event here at Tea&Sympathy.  We had held a further two of these since my first tea and cheese blog post each with positive and enthusiastic responses from participants.Given the level of interest, I thought it would be great to be able to match the quality of the teas with a similarly high quality in the cheeses for future events.

So I was thrilled to be able to collaborate with cheese expert and trained cheese maker, Rebecca Rozencwajg  – who happens to be equally as passionate about education in cheese as I am about education in tea! So, not only did we get to introduce some fabulous cheeses to the mix, but attendees got to learn all about their ingredients, how they're made, and a little bit of the history and tradition that go with them.

One of the parallels with tea and cheese is that both are natural products that are made with very few ingredients. We learned that all cheeses are made with the same four ingredients – milk, starter cultures, rennet and salt. All the differences we taste have to do with differences in processing methods, and in the terroir, or natural environment, from which the products originate.

Similarly, all teas come from the same plant – the Camellia Sinensis plant – and the vast number of unique flavours that we get from natural leaf teas come from skills of the producers and tea makers, and the terroir in which the tea grows.

Our approach to pairing

Everyone's familiar with wine and cheese matching, but people have been a bit surprised about the concept of matching teas with cheeses, but there is a range of complex flavour characteristics in teas that lend themselves well to food pairing.

With the basic pairing principles taken as read – moving from light to darker/heavier colours and flavours, matching both like with like and contrasting flavours, we came up with some of the matches based on other interesting parallels either in flavour characteristics or processing methods (see the notes below).

Genmaicha + Woodside Edith Goats cheese

Although both light and delicate in flavour, these two contrasted each other quite dramatically – the savoury of the Genmaicha really brought out the tanginess and even a sharpness in the creamy white goats milk cheese.

Alishan Green + Gorgonzola Dolce

This green tea and this blue cheese are really two of a kind. While their green and blue cousins tend to fall on the savoury side of the taste spectrum, the Alishan Green and the Gorgonzola Dolce both have hints of sweetness, while they both manage to retain the classical aspects of the tea and cheese families to which they respectively belong.

Described by one of the attendees as 'the perfect match' – a fabulous synergy of sweetness, with the tea providing a refreshing balance to the lusciously creamy gorgonzola.

Honey Oolong + Mimolette

This Taiwanese Honey Oolong and the Mimolette were paired not just on the basis of their flavour characteristics, but also because of their respective relationships with bugs.

The Honey Oolong, as its name suggests has a distinctive natural honey flavour, which is in part due to leafhoppers feasting on the tea leaves during their growth on the bush.

The Mimolette similarly relies on cheese mites to help it mature. The pock-marked skin on the cheese shows the work of the cheese mites.

The flavour of the Mimolette could be described as umami – not at all salty but definitely savoury. It was a nice neutral pairing with the sweet and floral Honey Oolong.

Alishan Autumn Oolong + Pyengana Cheddar

The Pyengana Cheddar is made in Tasmania from 4th generation cheese makers, and is the oldest specialty cheese made in Australia. This cheddar is a true standout amongst cheddars.

The Taiwanese high mountain Autumn Oolong is also something of a standout, with its 'biscuity' flavour being quite distinct from the other harvests from this garden, which have classical oolong floral and sugar-cane notes.

This biscuity oolong was combined with this classic cheddar to make 'cheese and crackers' – which they did very well!

Thanks to our 11 lovely tea and cheese tasters who participated on Saturday. It was lovely meeting you all.

We look forward to doing more of these sessions over the coming months. Keep an eye out for upcoming Events and Workshops on the website, sign up to the mailing list via the website or alternatively contact us directly if you would like to be included in email updates.