Why cheese and tea are the perfect match

We never thought we'd find anything as perfect as the combination of cheese and wine, but experts say there's a new rival food and drink pairing hot on its heels.

Tea connoisseurs will know the world of tea is as diverse, nuanced and interesting as that of wine and beer.

Speaking to Blueprint for Living, Dilmah CEO, Dilhan Fernando says while in the past tea was used purely for medicinal purposes, he wanted to explore the drink's relationship with different foods. It was during this process he discovered the wonderful synergies between tea and cheese.

Now cheese aficionado, Nick Haddow of Bruny Island Cheese Co., and Dilmah have teamed up to share the elusive third flavours produced when tea is paired with cheese.

"When combined, tea changes some characteristics of cheese, like the texture, components, flavour, and equally the cheese can change characteristics of the tea," says Dilhan. "That’s the magic of the third flavours on the palate."

With similar flavour profiles - tannins, astringency, sweetness and age - tea and cheese have endless pairing combinations.

While many of us hope pairing a single bottle of wine with three or four cheeses at home will do the taste of all cheeses and the wine justice, Nick says it's much more accessible (and affordable) to successfully pair three or four teas with our different cheeses instead.

"Make sure you brew your tea right: Use boiling water, if you’re in an area with hard water then filtered water is best and stir the tea bag so there’s proper extraction," Dilhan instructs. "Then the principle for pairing is matching a strong tea with a strong food - it needs something strong to stand up to it."

"Breakfast tea and Earl Grey tea works well with harder, robust, strong cheeses," Nick explains. "Earl Grey finishes quite floral and lifted in the palate, so to get a cheese that also does that could be a challenge."

"I make a seven-month-old, semi-hard, cow’s milk cheese called George, with pronounced rind characteristics and a floral note that lifts at the end, not unlike the Earl Grey tea itself," he says.

To try different cheese and tea pairings at home, Nick recommends putting together two or three cheeses, like a soft cheese or a washed rind cheese, plus a full-bodied cheddar or Gruyère. Have a look at the teas in your cupboard, brew the tea properly, make sure you're serving the cheeses at the right temperature and experiment with combinations.

Pay attention to what happens in your mouth: Do the flavours clash, is it a pleasurable taste, does one swamp the other?

To start yourself off, try a Darjeeling with brie, green tea with a goat's cheese or a breakfast tea with a cheddar.

"Keep tasting, keep trying and you'll find that magic," Dilhan says.

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