It’s around three in the afternoon, and the perfect time for a cup of green tea and a tasty morsel for your mid-afternoon pick me up. Whether you might enjoy a sweet treat or prefer a bite of something more savoury, did you know that both have a tea type that they can be paired with? Here is a simple guide to help you find the perfect Japanese tea to pair with your next snack. See what suits the texture and flavour of your refreshment for a truly restorative moment. You don’t have to be a tea master to learn the basics of matching—anyone can experience the “unlocking” of new flavours when pairing food with the right drinks.
With the many varieties not only of green tea, but also matcha, black tea, white tea, fruity blends, and more, it might be hard to know the difference when making your choice. Some things to consider then deciding on a tea and what to eat include:
- Occasion and season
- Appearance: does it look aesthetically pleasing?
- Texture of the food
Food is always carefully selected by the tea ceremony host to match the type of tea served, the occasion, and setting for the event. Different wagashi sweets are commonly associated with different months of the year. This is partly seasonal, based on availability of the ingredients, but also tradition and when particular sweets are enjoyed.
Sakura mochi is typically eaten in spring when the beautiful cherry blossoms are in bloom. Wrapped in cherry blossom leaves, which are pickled in salt (and can be eaten as is!), the fragrant and sweet red-bean inside the sticky treat goes well with light and refreshing sencha.
Different occasions call for refreshments that match the reverence of the moment. With a high-class gyokuro tea, sweets that are equally rich in umami are recommended. Likewise, alongside a top-grade ceremonial matcha, you will often see rakugan hard candy confectionery.
While the traditional tea ceremony is an austere and formalised occasion, you are not restricted to sweets with tea. In a tea ceremony, which you can also host at home, meals may be served, or alternatively cakes and western sweets, as well as savoury delights.
The matching of colours is also something to consider—does the presentation look appetising? Some may be surprised to learn that macarons are a go-to choice. The eye-catching colours of this luscious confection are the perfect partner to a cup of gyokuro or matcha.
Chocolate and matcha are a “matcha” made in heaven. Few will disagree that the slightly astringent flavour of matcha balances perfectly with the creamy sweetness of chocolate.
Crisp and crunchy osenbei rice crackers, or potato chips, call for a cup of ambrosial hojicha or slightly grassy sencha. Counterbalancing the oily and salty savoury snacks, the roasted tea delivers a mellow flavour. Also low in caffeine, hojicha is perfect even for kids at after-school snack time.
Some smooth and syrupy pudding matched with a palate-pleasing sencha, or if you’re feeling fancy a cup of gyokuro, makes for a delightful and slightly decadent dessert.
Light and aromatic bancha is low in caffeine and therefore fine to drink in larger quantities. Bancha, therefore, is one of the best choices with odango, which are a little heavier than other snacks. Enjoy a few cups of tea while delighting in dango dumplings without overwhelming your tastebuds.
Your Tea, Your Choice
The sweets served during tea ceremony are often intricately detailed and delicate delights, as well as miniature works of art that almost look too good to eat. However, you are free to mix and match different snacks and tea types to add some extra delight to your everyday tea time. Take a moment each day to savour your tea as an art. By knowing your brew, you can enhance your tea-drinking experience as well as the accompanying food.