The idea of being a tea sommelier is still a unique concept to many. But just like wine, the perfect tea and food pairing can completely transform a meal.
“What you want to happen in your mouth is to feel the different layers of taste and flavors of both tea and food,” says Aurelie Bessiere a tea sommelier from Palais des Thes.
NPR reports on the growing trend. Tea sommeliers come up with recommendations just like their wine counterparts: They talk to diners, consider what teas they like and ask which dishes they ordered. They then pick teas whose more subtle notes will be brought out by the food selected, or vice versa. Christopher Day, head of Eleven Madison Park’s tea program, says experimentation is the best way to unlock new flavors in tea.
“We once served a pu-erh [a variety of fermented tea] at cellar temperature with celery root that had been cooked in a pig’s bladder,” says Day.
But the budding connoisseur doesn’t need a fine restaurant to experiment with tea pairings. Day has suggestions for pairings to try at home: Kabuse green tea with melted chocolate or Tara black tea with aged cheddar.
If the idea of tea tasting and pairings interests you, make sure to explore the terroir of tea.