Many South Africans are all too familiar with the basics of wine pairing. We know that white wine pairs well with a fish dish, while a bold red goes with a juicy steak. We are, however, almost clueless when it comes to what to pair a hearty teapot of rooibos with.
And yes, Mzansi tea goes great with many dishes, desserts and even chocolates, says Cape Town-based tea sommelier, Jessica Bonin.
Bonin, who gained experience from studying directly under tea masters in China, Japan, and South Korea, shares some tasting notes to demonstrate the range and depth of some of our local rooibos infusions that have recently exploded onto the scene.
“Pairing tea with food allows one to experience enhanced flavours through the complimentary elements of various ingredients. It presents your palette with a new depth of taste brought about by a specific tea,” she says.
Today, on 21 May, tea-lovers from around the world are breaking out their finest china in celebration of International Tea Day.
9 suggestions for rooibos pairings
The day is earmarked to raise awareness of tea’s long history and cultural economic importance. To celebrate International Tea Day, try Bonin’s nine infused suggestions for rooibos pairings.
Keep it simple and sweet: Pairing tea with food allows one to experience enhanced flavours through the complimentary elements of various ingredients. It presents your palette with a new depth of taste brought about by a specific tea, says Bonin.
Rooibos and chamomile have a woody, creamy and peachy taste with honey-floral undertones, which complements anything fruity or sweet, such as scones or shortbread.
The mellow and tangy mouthfeel of rooibos and ginger adds balance to curry or spicy foods, whereas rooibos and vanilla pairs beautifully with sponge cakes, custard and sweet tarts.
For a meaty pairing: The earthy flavour of green rooibos complements savoury sandwiches and meat dishes, such as roast lamb or beef.
Rooibos for a fruity breakfast: The velvety, dusty sweetness of rooibos and cinnamon makes it ideal at breakfast time with croissants or scones, while the mildly astringent taste of Rooibos and Buchu matches well with fruit, such as peaches, apples, citrus, prunes, blackcurrant, pineapple and meat dishes. It also goes well with heavy meals.
Cleanse thy palate with something minty: Rooibos and mint is a palate cleanser and acts as a digestive. It is drunk after heavy and rich meals or in-between courses.
Chocolates pair well with a spicy brew: The bold flavours and rich aroma of rooibos chai makes it ideal with anything chocolatey. Think dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant and even works well in meat marinades. It is also delicious with Brie spread on a toasted baguette.
Even try a gin pairing: Rooibos and lemon adds a slightly astringent note with a crisp aftertaste that complements honey and ginger, while the luscious syrupy and juicy taste of rooibos and berry is always a winner with figs, lavender and even gin!
For something savoury: The refreshing taste of rooibos and rosehip makes it an ideal afternoon refresher with salads and savoury snacks.
Bonin adds, “Rooibos has an incredibly versatile flavour that makes it the perfect base for an array of ingredients. Tea enthusiasts can experiment by adding herbs, fruits, flowers and even spices. The flavour cascades are infinite.”
So, what does your tea choice say about you?
Bonin also says teas have always been selected for their unique characteristics and flavour profiles, however our individual inclinations towards different teas are also representative of our personal characteristics.
“Different types of personalities are drawn to different types of tea. Your preference for loose leaf tea over tea bags, and even how you brew your tea and drink it, says a lot about your personality.
For every individual, tea has a different meaning.
“It is an expression of our emotions and who we are. We all associate with its effects, even on a subconscious level. For some, tea-drinking is soothing and healing, while for others, it is invigorating.
“With so many beneficial compounds, tea creates various states in the body and mind that we then form associations with based on those outcomes. We naturally gravitate toward teas that fulfil the state of being we seek.
“For example, if you are in a contemplative mood, rooibos and chamomile will provide a calming effect, while rooibos and lemon is likely to be the blend of choice for those who demand focus. The spontaneous and adventurous among us will likely gravitate toward a berry-blend, whereas warm and caring individuals will find harmony in a cup of chai tea,” concludes Bonin.