If you are a true tea aficionado, you know that all teas aren’t created equal. There are as many different teas as there are hours in the day, and each one has its own special character. Choosing the right tea to go with your meal can truly enhance your dining experience, in much the same way that choosing the right wine does.
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The tea we are all most familiar with is black tea. This is a strong, heavily oxidized tea – which is why it is black – and the powerful taste needs to be coupled with flavorful foods so that it doesn’t overwhelm the meal. There are actually a number of types of black tea, and each goes best with different types of food. For example, a lot of teas from China and Africa have a stronger earthy flavor, and they go well with red meats and savory foods. Other teas, especially those from Sri Lanka and India, have a fruitier flavor, and are the perfect complement for sweet desserts. China also produces teas that have a smoky flavor, which are a bit more of an acquired taste and go well with things like full flavored meats blackened over charcoal.
Green tea, on the other hand, has a much lighter flavor and is a staple of Japanese and Chinese cuisine. Japanese green tea has a light, slightly grassy flavor and some people think it tastes slightly of seaweed. Because of this, it goes well with a wide range of seafood dishes. Chinese green tea has a slightly stronger, more smoky flavor that can overpower the delicate taste of fish, and is better served with chicken or stir fry. Avoid drinking Chinese green tea with dessert, since the sweetness will bring out the bitter characteristics of the tea.
Speaking of bitter characteristics, some teas really are too bitter and should be avoided. This is particularly the case with inexpensive bargain brands, so the money you save just isn’t worth it. Instead, buy good quality teas that deliver a smoother flavor, such as those sold by China Mist Tea Co or other good suppliers.
As with black teas, some of the green teas that come from India and Sri Lanka also have a fruity or citrusy flavor. These go well with poultry dishes and other light meats, as well as baked goods. However, they’re not a good choice with sweet food, unlike their black tea counterparts, since the sweetness of the food will overpower the taste of the tea.
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The lightest tasting tea of all is white tea, and it’s easily overwhelmed by the wrong foods – those with deep flavor or excessive sweetness. Most people prefer to drink white tea on its own, so that they can enjoy the delicate brew without any unnecessary distractions. However, if you do use it to accompany a meal, stick to very simple foods, such as a plain, undressed salad. Otherwise, you might as well just have a glass of warm water – the tea won’t taste of anything at all.