Tea and cheese pairing workshops from May and July 2012

Since our last tea and cheese report in April, we (myself and cheese expert extraordinaire, Rebecca Rozencwajg) have clocked up a further two pairing sessions, together with two lovely groups of enthusiastic tasters.

We are both passionate about these wonderful natural and diverse products, and the pairing sessions are a way to showcase their depth and diversity. Surprising to many, the pairing of tea with cheese can work very well with often unexpected results – whether enhancing, offsetting or balancing flavours, or bringing out new flavours altogether. I wrote a bit about our approach to pairing in the last blog post.

Here is a selection of pairings from our May and July sessions.

Pai Mu Tan with Fleur du Maquis

Pai Mu Tan is a white tea from Fujian Province in China.

White teas are the least processed of all the teas, typically undergoing only a couple of stages of processing such as withering and air-drying. We liked the parallel with the Fleur du Maquis, which remains similarly faithful to its origins.

The Fleur du Maquis is a Corsican ewe’s milk cheese, which undergoes minimal processing and ageing. The livestock that produce the milk roam freely in the hills, feeding on whatever they find on their way (a parcours diet). The rind of the Fleur du Maquis is rolled in herbs, adding to its earthy feel and texture.

This was a pairing of two quite delicate flavours. The result was soft and comforting, with each bringing out an extra sweetness from the other that is less obvious when each is taken individually.

Fleur du Maquis is rolled in herbs

Jin Xuan with Manchego

The Jin Xuan is a high mountain (Alishan) tea from Taiwan. It is also sometimes called Milk Oolong for its creamy flavour and mouthfeel. The creaminess or ‘milk’ aspect owes to the particular cultivar of the tea plant itself. In addition to its creaminess, the Jin Xuan also has sugar cane notes characteristic of many Taiwanese oolongs.

The Manchego is an aged, semi-hard Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, which has a certain sharpness about it.

We took the suggestion to pair Jin Xuan and Manchego from The English Tea Store's Blog post. The creaminess of the Jin Xuan certainly balanced out sharpness in the cheese nicely, bringing out its fruity characteristics. The Manchego, in turn, enhanced the sugar cane notes in this Taiwanese oolong.

Jin Xuan (Milk Oolong)

Da Hong Tie (and Black Pearls) with Millefoglie al Marzemino

In May we paired the Da Hong Tie with Millefoglie al Marzemino, and then in July we substituted the Da Hong Tie with the Black Pearls from Doi Mae Salong in Thailand.

The Millefolgie al Marzemino is a cow’s milk cheese originating from foothills of the Italian Alps.  It is soaked in red grape, and processed in such a way as to allow the fermented grape to penetrate the rind, resulting in ‘veins’ of wine running through the cheese.

Using these two teas was a flavour match, as both are reminiscent of light red wines. The Da Hong Tie has a rich fruity flavour and aroma, with a very slight sweetness. The Black Pearls similarly has a wine-like fruitiness, transforming to notes of toffee as it cools.

This proved to be an excellent match on both occasions, enhancing the wine-like qualities of both the teas and cheese in each case.

Big Red Robe (Da Hong Pao) and Reggiano Parmeggiano

The Big Red Robe is a famous Chinese Rock tea from the Wuyi Mountains in Fujian Province, China.

The Big Red Robe is a ‘big’ tea – it has a rich, malty, ‘rock-rhyme’ flavour. We thought it should be matched with an equally ‘big’ cheese, and therefore chose the Parmigiano Reggiano. The Parmigiano Reggiano is bold, with a slight ‘bite’ to it, and a crystalline crunchiness.

This one also proved a good match, creating a full, creamy mouthfeel, with the cheese bringing out the fragrant notes in this full flavoured rock tea. We did note the coconut flavour from the Big Red Robe that seems to come about when it is paired with cheese!

The tea and cheese pairing sessions are small group sessions that are open to the public. We try to do them every other month. If you would like to be kept up to date with future workshops and events generally, please let us know and we will add you to the mailing list.

On 25 August we will be conducting a shorter pairing session at the Australian Specialist Cheese Show.