Thursday, 29 July 2010

Tea and Food: What to drink with Italian

I find that Italian food is one of the hardest with which to pair tea. There's just something about it that gives me a mental block for some reason. However, being stubborn, and preferring to drink tea to any other beverage no matter what the circumstances, I am trying to come up with some options.

This post focuses on the simpler, lighter-flavored Italian type foods, the ones that you might choose to  accompany with a white wine. So, think of things like a risotto with veggies, pasta with sauteed greens, dishes that actually include some white wine in the cooking - even pizza if it's a fresher sort that's light on cheese and meats. Jamie's Italy and not the local pizzeria kind of thing (unless your local pizzeria happens to be DOC or Ladro, in which case you are lucky).

In my opinion these dishes actually pair well with fruity Chinese greens and greener oolongs, I think because the fruity notes and dryness can be quite similar to those you find in white wine. So you could brew up a pot of bi luo chun or milk oolong and it would be right at home... sort of... at any rate it would taste good! This week I drank some milk oolong alongside a pasta dish of penne with rainbow chard and it was a very good combination.

 Milk oolong steaming from its initial rinse

Likewise you would also do well with a greenish first flush Darjeeling; I accompanied my pasta leftovers the next day with some Singbulli first flush - also a very acceptable partner. Basically, I think in your tea selection you are looking for something with a bit of fruit and a bit of astringency - not mouth puckering, just enough to let you know it's there.

Herbal tea-wise... I would try chamomile, spearmint, maybe even fresh basil, bay leaf or lemon myrtle, depending on what flavorings you were using in the dish. Aniseed tisane would be very refreshing for afterwards (and that way you wouldn't need any Sambuca!)*

I'm still trying to get my head around the kinds of tea you would serve with more robust Italian dishes such as bolognaise... Does anyone have any suggestions? Or is this just not going to work?

* Just kidding. You can have the Sambuca too.


  1. I think I would have a more plain tea with bolognaise. Maybe plain black or earl grey. I would think a simple tea would be a better accompaniment to the heavier pasta dishes.

  2. oh my my your blog is a bit on the lovely side of things!
    i enjoy your gazing at the pretty pictures ever so much

  3. Well, that's really difficult to find a tea that fits Italian dishes. I read your entry already in the morning before I left for work and had it in my mind all day long, but I did not get an idea. I go with Samantha's idea that a plain black tea could be fine. It definitely should be something without another aromatic i think...

  4. Oh thanks Lauren :D

    Samantha and Jenny, I was thinking a bit of a similar thing... Or maybe a dark oolong...? I shall have to experiment this coming week...

  5. hi have you tried making tea from mesona chinensis. It's a member of the mint family and in Asia its drunk as the grass jelly drink. I was thinking that it might be nice just as a tea and quite nice with the richer tomatoey based pastas. - Saunthra

  6. Lapson Souchong works, if it's not one of the really strong ones. But some things just aren't made for each other. There is an Italian Association for Tea Culture that may have some suggestions. Italiam desserts are lovely with many teas. My husband is Italian and we eat that way a lot, but I wouldn't try many teas with red sauce. With most of the non-tomato you'd be fine, the fresh tomato sauces - the ones you make while the pasta boils. Have fun!

  7. Thanks for your tireless effort to pair teas with food. In my humild experience, simple black tea is a good option, especially when the food contains red sauces; because bergamot and citrus flavored teas may cause some acidity after.

  8. Wow thanks for all the comments guys!

    Saunthi, I have never tried grass jelly drink - perhaps I should? If I find some of the tea I'll let you know how it goes.

    I would think that Lapsang Souchong might go well with some of the stronger flavours... I'll look into the Italian Association, thanks Marlena!

    My husband just made a big batch of bolognaise sauce, so I will have some opportunities to experiment this week :)

  9. Hi I wonder if you know what type of tea is served in Jamies Italian Leeds.. It is delicious ?


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