On Wednesday, 3 December, Whittington’s Tea Emporium (WTE) hosted a tea and cheese tasting event at La Cave a Fromage in Notting Hill. The owner of WTE, Kyle Whittington, along with cheese master, Alec from La Cave a Fromage, put on a brilliant two-hour pairing of six teas and cheeses.
Last June I went to a tea and Asian food tasting that WTE hosted at the noodle house. At this event Kyle told me about plans to organise a tea and cheese tasting. He had recently tried some yellow tea with a hard cheese and immediately fell in love. Trying not to look too sceptical, I could not help but wonder if this would be a crowd pleaser. Judging by ticket demand for his tea and cheese tastings, and my wonderful experience at the event, any scepticism I had is definitely gone. Kyle was spot on – tea and cheese is a great combination.
Tea meets cheese
Before tasting the first pairing, Kyle and Alec explained why they thought tea and cheese worked so well. While they stressed how the flavours of tea and cheese compliment each other, they said that tea offers something to cheese that wine can not: it radically alters the texture of the cheese and gives you a mouthfeel experience that is not possible with wine. The heat of the tea breaks down the cheese and pulls out its creaminess. Moreover, tea does an exceptional job of cleansing the strong flavours of the cheese from your palate.
We started the night with lighter-tasting teas and cheeses, which are the bottom row in the picture above, and moved to the strong teas and cheeses, which are at the top of the picture. The tea and cheese pairings were as follows:
1. Long Jing green tea from Canton Tea Co with Terenorre 3 latti (cow, sheep and goat’s milk)
2. Yellow tea from Canton Tea Co with Napoleon 24 months (sheep’s milk)
3. Hong Shui Oolong from Tip Top Tea with Tomme de Savoie (cow’s milk)
4. Ceylon Kenilworth from Tea Studio with an aged Montgomery cheddar (cow’s milk)
5. Aged Arya 1st Flush Darjeeling from Canton Tea Co with Barkham Blue (cow’s milk)
6. Cooked 2007 Lincang Puerh from Canton Tea Co with Epoisse La Cave (cow’s milk cheese double washed in Brandy)
Kyle and Alec took great care in pairing the flavours in the teas with the cheeses. For example, the vegetal notes in the Long Jing went really well with the creamy, sweet flavours in the Terenorre 3 latti; and the puerh, with its strong wet wood flavour, not only nicely accommodated the bold butter flavour in the Epoisse La Cave, but the puerh cut through the fat in the cheese and cleansed the palate.
Amongst the group of tasters, the Ceylon with the aged cheddar seemed to be the most popular pairing. Whilst the Ceylon was one of favourite teas of the night, I thought this pairing played the least off of each other. The tea altered the texture of the cheese, but I didn’t think the flavours combined to provide a new taste experience. My personal favourite was the Oolong with the Tomme de Savoie. The tea did not change the texture of the cheese much, but the honey-like sweetness in the tea paired magnificently with the mushroomy taste in the cheese. I also really liked the the Darjeeling and the Barham Blue pairing because the sweet, floral notes in the tea went very well with the creamy, sour and salty flavours in the cheese.
You meeting tea and cheese (as well as other WTE events)
Kyle has done a cracking job with these tasting events. I highly recommend this tea and cheese tasting. The event is designed for all – from novice to connoisseur. Kyle does an exceptional job of providing a super relaxed atmosphere where people can try new things, ask questions and learn more about tea.
The next tea and cheese tasting is Tuesday, 9 December at The Cheeseboard in Greenwich, and the next event at La Cave a Fromage in Notting Hill is on Wednesday, 14 January. WTE is also putting on another event at the noodle house in central London on Tuesday, 13 January. I attended the first event at the noodle house and had a great time. Lastly, in collaboration with t-lovers, WTE gives tea tasting tours in Shoreditch and tea walks around London. You can find more information about all upcoming events, including dates, times and costs, here.