Tea can be paired with food in two primary ways: as an ingredient and/or as a healthful beverage paired alongside your favorite meal. While pairing options are infinite, here are some ideas for pairing tea and food.
A Few High Level Tips
Earthy Teas such as pu-erh or low-astringency black teas generally pair well with meat dishes, chocolate.
Astringent Teas (highly oxidized, black teas, etc.) pair wonderfully with richer foods.
Sweeter Teas such as greener-style oolongs offer a nice complement to spicy or salty dishes.
Roasted Teas, including Houjicha and darker-style roasted oolongs, easily pair with desserts, or mild game or earthy (e.g. mushroom) dishes.
Pairings by Tea Type
As the least processed (lowest oxidized) tea, white teas are mild and subtle with a little natural sweetness, full mouthfeel and sometimes offer nuttiness or toasty notes.
Pair with mlld flavored sweet dishes such as shortbread or pound cake. Otherwise, white teas are often best enjoyed on their own.
Green teas are minimally processed and can range broadly in flavor depending on origin and de-enzyme methods (steam, pan- or oven-fired). Japanese green teas tend to be more grassy while Chinese green teas can exhibit nutty, earthy notes.
Dragonwell (China): Light creamy cheeses such as Brie, aged Gruyère, Camembert; seafood, fruits and custards
Gen Mai Cha (Japan): Chicken and seafood dishes, light vegetables, avocado toast
Gunpowder (China): Fish, smoked meats, oysters, BBQ, and dishes with lemon, basil and/or vinegar
Houjicha (Japan): Cured pork, cream-based foods, desserts
Jasmine-Infused Teas (China): Curried foods, fresh fruit, dairy
Matcha (Japan): Traditionally enjoyed with just a small sweet confection or mochi; chocolate, cheese, richer dairy recipes, prosciutto, seafood and vegetable dishes
Sencha (Japan): Seafood, egg dishes, raw or delicately prepared vegetables
Ranging from sweeter tasting greener styles to dark and roasted styles, oolongs generally have a lighter body and silky mouthfeel. Their lingering, often sweeter finish can help to offset the heat of spicier dishes.
Ti Kwan Yin: Pork dishes, smoky or spicy dishes, fruits, sweets such as chocolate and caramel
Four Seasons Oolong: Semi-sweet or spicy dishes, scallops, crab, pork, soft/aged white cheeses and sweet desserts
Wuyi Rock: Spicy dishes, poultry, pork, roasted vegetables; fruity desserts, spiced breads, stone fruit
Black teas are highly oxidized and typically contain a range of astringency levels from mild to strong.
Assam: Smoked, roasted or grilled meats and seafood, spiced or sweet desserts, chocolate, caramel, sharp cheese, egg dishes, mushrooms
Chai: Pair spicy chai blends with sweeter dishes or desserts for contrasting flavors
Darjeeling: Soft cheese, fruit, white meat (chicken, turkey, pork)m mushroom dishes and dishes prepared with warmer spices such as nutmeg
Keemun: Spicy foods, cheese, eggs, vanilla, chocolate, Chinese, Mexican, Italian and Indian recipes
The digestive qualities of puerh combined with their earthy, sometimes musky flavors, make for great pairing them with meats and oily foods, cheeses, and stir-fried dishes.