…in the power of tea to transform a food! I’ve just returned from The 2014 World Tea Expo held in Long Beach, California and absolutely loved my Culinary Teas class with chef and tea expert Cynthia Gold (L’espalier, Boston). I have to admit that when I signed up for the class, which was actually offered through The Specialty Tea Institute, there was some skepticism that I’d like this class. I’ve considered myself more of a traditionalist—preferring to taste tea on its own so it was delightful to taste the many different flavor sensations created by pairing. Don’t get me wrong…I’m well aware of how good sweet treats go with some teas and appreciate a wonderful spread for “afternoon tea”, but I’ve always regarded serious tasting as something that is just about the tea.
The first part of the class covered about 10 different foods and five different tea pairings. Cynthia led us to understand that everything we may know about food and wine pairings can be transferred to tea. Our tastings focused on 1) pairing for compatibility with the more subtle secondary tones of the food and the tea; and 2) pairing for contrast or balance such as balancing a rich creamy cheese with an astringent tea like Darjeeling. She didn’t tell us what to pair or like: rather she helped us understand and experience the principles and encouraged us to practice with many different foods and tea.
The second part of the class was focused on cooking with tea—especially in making concentrated infusions for marinades and richer infusions such as simple syrups that can be used in cocktails, on ice cream, in making desserts, etc. This went way beyond the familiar use of matcha in smoothies—in fact matcha wasn’t even mentioned in the class. We had some amazing tea cocktails that really let the flavor of the tea through without being obvious. Cynthia encourages being authentic—not gimmicky which is why I liked her so much. She truly respects and loves tea and is a champion of creating unique flavors for all kinds of foods.
I’m doing a lot of practicing with tea and foods…and looking forward to sharing my best results with you!