Pairing tea with food is catching on in high end London restaurants. Will Scotland follow suit?
Naturally, we’re not talking builders’ teabags in a mug but esoteric, single estate teas which are carefully cold infused and served in a wine glass.
The Telegraph article has even found tea sommeliers employed at Club Gascon and Fera at Claridge, two of London’s Michelin-starred restaurants.
It may not come as a huge surprise but Scotland’s restaurateurs don’t seem to be facing many cries for tea sommeliers to advise on pairing tea with food.
Pairing tea with food in Scotland?
While it may not be a trend north of the border at the moment, Jon Cooper of Edinburgh’s PekoeTea reckons that matching tea and food will become more widespread.
‘I think that it’s a really newish trend down in London at the moment and it’ll hit Edinburgh in around eighteen months to two years,’ he says. ‘However, we are pioneering some matching. One pairing that we did a lot of experimenting with was tea and cheese. We found that certain high end Darjeeling teas, with their muscatel and honey-like finish, really matched with different cheeses and course oatcakes.’
As complex as wine
Jon thinks that it will take time but he is sure that pairing tea dishes and food will be the next big thing in food and drink.
‘The flavours of tea and especially cold infused tea are as complex and diverse as what you can get from some of the best wines in the world,’ he says.
If you need convincing, he recommends trying cold infused white teas, such as Yunnan Moonlight White, as an accompaniment to salads and fish dishes.
Flavour is one factor that might persuade people to swap their Cote du Rhone for rooibos but there are other considerations. Drink driving laws, especially in Scotland, are tightening up.
Work culture is also changing. Many companies frown on a lunchtime glass of wine or operate an outright ban on drinking during work hours. Swapping the lunchtime lager for a lapsang souchong will keep you out of trouble with the HR department.
Tea and cocktails
While pairing tea with food has yet to gain momentum around these parts, tea is a perennially popular ingredient with the nation’s cocktail bar tenders.
James Kemp, marketing manager at Kained Holdings, says: ‘We haven’t noticed increased requests for tea to be served with food across our venues with the exception of those looking for a traditional fish tea at The Finnieston or a good old pot of tea alongside brunch at The Drugstore Social.’
But it’s a different story when it comes to cocktails:
‘Tea is actually a classic cocktail ingredient, the use of which dates back to punch houses in the mid 17th century. The punches served in these establishments featured exotic ingredients such as expensive teas and spices brought back to Europe by merchant sailors.
‘Tea is still a fashionable ingredient in cocktails. Bartenders enjoy using the bitter, floral and herbal subtleties of different styles of tea. At The Drugstore Social, the signature drink, The Drugstore Punch, features a gorse tea. It brings an earthy undertone to the punch as well as a nuance of tropical fruit and coconut, which balances the drink perfectly. The Drugstore Punch is made with Johnnie Walker Gold Label, pineapple posca, Velvet Falernum and gorse tea.”
Fancy a cuppa cocktail?
In Edinburgh, the capital’s cocktail makers are just as keen on using tea. Mike McGinty is the General Manager of The Voyage of Buck:
‘We use tea regularly in cocktails at The Voyage of Buck. In fact, we have a cocktail dedicated to John Dodd. He established a tea trading company in Taipei and helped kindle our lifelong love of tea.
‘It’s called the Dodd and Co. We’ve used two different teas in this drink, flavouring the syrup with lapsang souchong and infusing the Highland whisky with oolong. Highland whiskies are known for their honeyed sweetness and we married this with the woody and sweet notes of the oolong. The lapsang souchong finishes the drink with a smokiness to go with the peat notes of the whisky.’