Tea & Cheese, Part One

Tea & cheese pairings are a hot trend in world of tea these days. Similar to wine and cheese, I first came across this idea while attending the LA Tea Festival in Little Tokyo a few years back. After sitting in on a tasting session held by Chef and Tea Journey contributor, Robert Wemischner, I came away with a fresh appreciation for these two equally complex ingredients.
These are some of the tea & cheese pairings that I happen to really enjoy. Although some of the pairings are opposite flavors, others have very similar flavor profiles. To draw out the most flavor, make sure that your cheeses are at room temperature and your teas are enjoyed warm. As with wine, there’s no strict standard for what goes with what. Nibble, sip, nibble, and sip again! Grab a few pungent wedges at the local artisan market and discover your own favorite pairings!

1. Red Leicester & Assam

  1. This orange-hued British cheese is similar in taste to that of Cheddar, but milder and more crumbly. It’s sweet and bright taste (this one has red pepper mixed in) is full-flavored and straightforward like that of Assam. This pairing is uncomplicated, that of equals, where the cheese’s caramel-like flavors meet Assam’s brisk ones.

2. Smoked Gouda & Ripe Puerh 

This slightly smokey hard cheese from Holland has a mild and smooth finish. Like ripe Puerh, this cheese has a round (not bright or astringent) taste profile. Together, the tea helps to draw out the creamy and slightly sweet flavors in the Gouda and also enhances its smokey notes.

3. Mimolette & Darjeeling 

 One of my favorites, this French cheese’s taste is cross between a sharp cheddar and an aged parmesan. In whole form, the cheese looks similar to a cantaloupe. It has a distinctly nutty flavor and Darjeeling’s bright, muscatel-like essence creates a sweet and clean finish to each bite.

4. Chèvre & Dragonwell 

On its own, this French goat cheese isn’t one of my favorites. I often find the taste too strong and too “goaty.” Enjoying it with a sweet and delicate green tea like Dragonwell enhances the grassy notes in the cheese, and helps to lift and lighten some of the earthier notes that can be overwhelming.

  1. 5. Comté & Tie Guan Yin 

This French raw milk cheese somehow manages to be subtle and intense all in one bite. This is an authentic fondue cheese, robust and in need of some contrast (which is why it’s so great in fondue!). Tie Guan Yin’s mineraly, vegetal, and astringent floral notes do a fantastic job of balancing out the heavier, complex flavors of this cheese.

Love this cheesy post? The tasting continues tomorrow in Tea & Cheese, Part 2!