Tea offers a vast variety of flavors, aromas, and characteristics it can be paired with different cuisines to heighten the meal experience.
Black tea has the most robust flavor, and the most pronounced tannins, so it pairs well with full-flavored foods, like spicy dishes and meat. Pastries also taste excellent when served with a cup of black tea alongside.
A cup of darjeeling black tea pairs well with a créme brûlée because of the bright musky-sweet notes and grape skin like tannins it adds complexity to the creaminess of the custard.
The subtle, vegetative flavor and aroma of most green tea is well suited for mild or subtly-flavored foods, such as seafood, rice, salads, melon or chicken. A Japanese Sencha green tea pairs nicely with rice desserts because it's lightly sweet and grassy vegetal characteristics heighten the rice's starch and sweetness.
The subtle complexity of flavor and aroma attributed to oolong tea demand drinking it on its own. Oolongs can range in character between green and black teas, many can be paired with food along the same lines as their green or black counterparts. For example, greener oolongs tend to go well with scallops, lobster and other sweet rich foods, while darker oolongs compliment somewhat stronger-flavored foods such as duck and grilled meats. An Oolong tea is perfect as an after dinner drink because of it's soothing nature and it's a great way to finish a meal.
Pu-erh teas are known for their digestive benefits. Not only do these teas pair well with meats and oily foods, they can offer a welcome settling effect after a large, multi-course meal.
Let's not forget Chocolate!
Chocolate and tea also make for a perfect pairing. They share health benefits and flavor qualities including caffeine, flavonoids and tannins. Here are a few worth sampling.
Jasmine Green Tea with a nice floral note or really floral oolong and dark chocolate.
Earl Grey Black Tea with pronounced citrusy notes and dark chocolate.
Earthy pu-erh teas bright and floral with dark chocolate.
Masala Chai Black Tea the spices pair well with milk or white chocolate.
Wu Yi Oolong with it's roasted quality pairs well with sweet milk chocolate or chocolate caramels.
Lapsang Souchong, very dark smokey tea, pairs well with dark bitter chocolate.
Assam black teas, full-bodied, maltiness pairs well with milk or white chocolate.
Oolongs with sweet notes, pair nicely with citrusy dark chocolate.
Some high-end dining establishments employ a tea sommelier on staff to recommend tea and food pairings. The quality and variety of teas available have increased dramatically over the years, and restaurants are doing a better job preparing them.