Last week we discussed why tasting teas side by side can be beneficial to the tea experience and to the tea drinker. Allowing those who practice it to learn more about tea and its potential, comparative tasting is something that should be practiced by all those looking to up their game when it comes to drinking tea.
At Herbal Republic, we have compiled a list of 5 pairs of teas that make for great choices for comparative tasting sessions. Ranging from the similar to the very, very different, the five pairs of teas that we outline below in this article show the rich experiences that can be provided not only by comparative tasting, but by the entirety of the tea experience.
Read on to discover our recommended tea pairings, and if you have our own ideas to share, we would love to hear them. Simply add them to the comment section below.
The first pairing that we will recommend to those wanting to give comparative tasting a try is to brew our Earl Grey Blue Star and Assam teas side by side and compare them. Since Earl Grey is flavoured with oil of bergamot, and Assam is a staple in the field of black teas, this pairing gives the drinker insight into just how much a tea is changed simply through its flavouring process. The sweet citrus flavours and aromas will perfectly contrast the dry, malty and astringent characters of Assam, creating not only an educational experience, but an enjoyable one.
We sought to provide you with not only tea pairings that were enjoyable and educational, but pairings that told their drinker a story. The pairing of Formosa Oolong and our Organic English Breakfast tea tells the drinker a story of the early history of tea and its arrival in Europe.
When European travelers and merchants ventured into Asia to explore and trade the continent, they discovered in forms not unlike the oolong featured here. Oolong was very popular in Asia at the time and remains one of the shining gems of the entire world’s tea culture. Travelers sought to bring the tea home with them but quickly found that the delicate leaves were not suited to the rough and lengthy journey back to Europe. In order to find a way to better preserve the tea leaves and make them robust enough for the journey, they discovered that by oxidizing them they could easily last long enough to be brought back home in bulk to be enjoyed. This gave rise to Black tea, a fully oxidized form of tea that has a long shed life and strong flavour suited to the palates of the coffee drinking Europeans. Tea rapidly rose in popularity in Europe and remains a strong cultural tradition in the region to this day.
This pairing tells the story of tea’s Asian beginnings and eventual migration into Europe purely through the effect it has on the senses.The purpose of using Organic English Breakfast tea instead of normal English Breakfast is that the organic proves to be as historically accurate as possible. Without the use of harsh chemicals and pesticides in its cultivation, it is without a doubt similar to the pure and unpolluted black tea that would have been known to those early European tea drinkers.
It would be impossible to drink this pair of teas without conjuring up images of grain fields in the imagination. Genmaicha is one of the more unusual teas in the vast world of tea. What sets it apart from essentially all other teas is not the fact that it is green tea, but the fact that the green tea is blended with toasted rice. This was originally done as a way to save tea leaves and make a supply of them last longer. Since tea was fairly costly at the time it was first blended with toasted rice, it made sense to stretch a supply of it as long as possible. Despite its thrifty origins, the “rice tea” rapidly erupted in popularity beyond its humble beginnings. People throughout Asia and now throughout the world value it for its savoury, grainy qualities and verdant green character.
On the other hand, China Golden Yunnan tea has been sought after around the world for its similarly grainy qualities. Even though it is not mixed with any actual grains like our Genmaicha is, it is known to exhibit a certain “corn sweetness” that reminds one of a grain market or the distinctive taste of unseasoned popcorn.
The pairing of the two together gives the drinker a sense of the variety of tastes and aromas available in the tea spectrum. Grainy teas are not often observed in the tea world and to drink two of them side by side proves the extent to which tea flavours and experiences can vary. It also trains the palate to make grain flavours more apparent in other teas in the future.
Jasmine Pearls are one of those delightful treats in the tea world that can never get old. Throwing them into a pot or mug and watching them expand as they impart their sweet and gentle flavour is pleasing to watch. Jasmine pearls are in essence flavoured and rolled tea leaves that are difficult to over steep. This means that they are forgiving to the forgetful tea drinker who might not remember to check steeping times and won’t go bitter with a little too much time left in the water. Similarly, our Red Organic Rooibos is smooth, gentle, and sweet without being floral and provides a nutty background that pairs wonderfully with the Jasmine Pearls. Rooibos is renowned around the world for never getting bitter and even has some medicinal qualities. They combine together to create a pleasing and blissful experience for the senses.
This final combination likely displays the highest degree of contrast between any two teas on the list. Nana’s Fruit Garden is our own blend of fruit tea that makes it for a very smooth and fruity experience. Irish Breakfast on the other hand is the complete opposite. Robust, strong and astringent, Irish Breakfast is sure wake you up and put hair on your chest. Together they make for an interesting match (opposites attract as they say). Balancing each other out, the fruit blend brings out Irish Breakfasts wine character, while building its fruit flavours and aromas on the firm and steady body provided by the black tea.