Pairing Tea & Cheese

Tea and cheese – an unlikely combination but yes it’s a thing, and we have brought in the Aussie experts to...

Pairing Tea & Cheese

Tea and cheese – an unlikely combination but yes it’s a thing, and we have brought in the Aussie experts to explain how you can unpack this hot new food and drink trend at home. Local cheese connoisseurs, siblings Sam and Ellie Studd give us the run down on how to pair tea with cheese, and share their recipe for the ultimate summer cheese board to serve with your favourite Nerada tea.

Pairing cheese with tea is a trend that appears to have gained traction in the United States, but it is “definitely a thing” here in Australia, say Sam and Ellie Studd, the cheese-making siblings following in the footsteps of their cheese connoisseur father, Will Studd. And they should know. Over the last decade, the Studd siblings have travelled Australia and the world, working with celebrated cheesemongers and makers, hand-picking artisan cheeses for the US and Australian markets.

You can drink tea with cheese, kombucha with cheese, and even herbal infusions with cheese says the Studd siblings. They have seen a number of the cheese producers they work with really embracing the tea and cheese pairing. Give it a try!

Why does tea pair well with cheese?
Just like wine, a drink you may be more familiar with when it comes to your cheese boards, tea has tannins and astringency. Why is this important? Because the fat and saltiness of the cheese harmonises the bitter tannins, astringency and subtle sweetness of the tea (just as it does with wine).

Ellie explains that the warmth of the tea also has something to do with it. “The heat in your mouth from the tea opens up the flavour of the cheese and can bring out the earthiness or sweetness of the cheese.”

How to pair cheese and tea
When pairing any food and drink, you need to find either contrast, balance or harmony, says Ellie. So, when it comes to tea and cheese, her advice is: “Ask yourself ‘what qualities does the tea have, or the cheese have’ before you start trying to match-make.”

Here are some classic cheese and tea combinations to try:

Green tea is “a dream combo” with a fresh chevre. Try it with award-winning Australian cheese Holy Goat chevre, which is made in Victoria. Ellie says she considers green tea like white wine when it comes to pairing with cheese. “The grassy spring floral qualities of a light, bright green tea are good with goat’s cheese – so light and fresh.”

Sam likes to serve a rose tea (try Nerada’s Christmas Tea, which is infused with saffron, cardamom and rose; or the Organic Rosehip, Lemongrass and Ginger Infusion) with triple cream cheeses such as Brillat Savarin. “The creaminess of the cheese needs something sweet and floral. Any herbal fruity tea will go with that creamy rind – it’s a luxurious combination,” he says.

Sam says a genuine black tea such as Nerada's black tea, goes well with a funky washed rind camembert, and both iced black tea and warm black tea work. The Gallo Dairy camembert or the Woombye Cheese Company on QLD’s Sunshine Coast is a great match.

“When it comes to aged gouda, you’re working with complex, caramelly, dense, flavours,” says Sam. “And the sweet bergamot flavours of Nerada Earl Grey really complement that.”

“My favourite cheese and wine combo is oolong and comte,” says Sam. But you could serve comte with any premium tea, he says. “Comte is such an elegant, refined cheese. It has that kaleidoscope of flavours, so the delicate tea notes of premium black teas really complement those.”

Kombucha is a fermented tea drink, and those funky fermented flavours and subtle carbonation stand up to pungent flavour and aroma of washed rind cheeses. Ellie says this is a combo she has seen in Los Angeles, and if you are looking to serve iced teas instead of kombucha, she recommends a “creamy dreamy” cheese, such as Brillat Savarin or brie.

When it comes to blue cheese, you need a tea with more depth of flavour to stand up to the complexity of the cheese. Ellie suggests a strong black tea like the Nerada Loose Leaf Tea or a smoky lapsang tea. And their hot tip for what blue cheese to pick? “Rogue River Special Reserve, which is handmade by David Gremmels in Oregon, USA,” agree Sam and Ellie. “It was recently named the world’s best cheese and you can now buy it in Australia at Simon Johnson. It comes vine-wrapped in organic pear leaves that are macerated in pear brandy, so the cheese is sweet and salty, it tastes like Christmas pudding almost, and on top of that his cow welfare is amazing,” they say.

The Studd sibling’s ultimate summer cheeseboard
The Studd siblings share a paint by numbers cheeseboard for easy summer entertaining:

“A good summer cheese for me is a triple cream, such as Brillat Savarin with iced rosehip tea,” says Sam.

“Then I’d add something funky with a washed rind, like camembert with a Nerada black tea.”

“Thirdly, comte with oolong is my ultimate combo,” says Sam, but Ellie would prefer goat’s cheese with a floral green tea.

“Goat’s cheese is refreshing, so it’s a summer hit,” she says. “You’d normally pair a crisp white wine with chevre, so in this case, use green tea.”

To get the most out of your cheese and tea pairing, Ellie shares some of the science behind how we taste: “Sip the tea first as it warms the palate, then bite the cheese, then sip the tea again with a little bit of the cheese still in your mouth, then breathe out. It sounds complicated but it’s not – it encourages the retro nasal effect, so you can explore the full flavour of the tea and cheese.”

But you don’t have to take it too seriously. “Tea and cheese pairing is a fun experiment to enjoy the qualities of the tea and the cheese,” says Ellie, no matter how you do it.