Well, oolong tea pairings might make your head spin — especially if it’s your first time. Given mighty oolong’s tremendous health benefits and irresistible aroma, the immediate question that pops into your head may be, “Can I not just take a cuppa with anything I want?”
Of course, you can. It’s a free country.
But anyone who’s tasted chocolate with dry red wine (or melons and milk according to Ayurveda practice) can tell you not everything that can be mixed is meant to be matched. So go on, satisfy your curiosity in the Kitchen Department, but in the end, we’re pretty sure of one thing: The palates won’t lie.
And that’s why we’ve come out with this complete pairing guide for beginners (and tea connoisseurs alike). So anyone caught up with the “oolong bug” in life can start his daily cuppa and will not be left in the dark. To cherish choice oolong with the best food combo. Read on.
3 Golden Rules to Live By
Who wouldn’t want to be warned that the Indian Goan Vindaloo dish on the table is smoking hot with pepper when you’re allergic to spicy foods? Well, you get the picture. That’s exactly why we’re dishing out a handful of need-to-knows when pairing oolong tea so you can enjoy your journey without a single tinge of regret.
1. Match the level of your oolong tea to your meal.
OK, that may sound confusing. But it’s simple, actually. As tea can be easily overpowered by food, you must observe caution in your oolong tea pairing. Let lighter oolong tea go with lighter foods and stronger oolong teas (more oxidized) with richer, more decadent dishes.
2. Match oolong tea with fruits of similar profile.
It’s always a great idea to heighten the fruity flavor of your oolong. To do that, a general rule. Match your oolong with fruits that harbor a similar profile. So, bananas or coconuts go well with milkier oolongs. Also, for best results, make sure your fruits are ripe.
3. Your palate won’t lie.
As far as golden rules go, your palate will tell you what’s best for you. While congruent oolong pairings may bid well for some, others go for complementary ones mixing different flavors into one. So let your tongue decide. And you be the judge.
Experience-wise, it’s advisable to have dark oolongs pair well with spicy curries, duck, and stir-fries. On the other end of the spectrum, light oolongs go well with citrus fruits, scallops, lobsters, and soft cheese.
Then again, oolong tea pairings should not stress you out. Instead, consider it a zen experience to relieve you of your sorrows. Here are more pairings to give you a lift.
10 Best Oolong Tea Pairings to Grab
To boot, know oolong tea is a very versatile tee, much more versatile than green or black tea. What we mean by that is the range of flavors and aromas you’ll get with oolong - from light and floral to dark and roasted - is very wide, much wider than any other true tea (Camella Sinensis).
NOTICE: Knowing the different oolong types would benefit a beginner or tea connoisseur who wants to get the most out of his cuppa. So before you proceed, taking to heart our Beginner’s Guide to the Best Oolong Tea should serve you well.
Therefore, we urge you to suit your choice oolong to fit your fave pairing. This way, you can enjoy mighty oolong’s tall list of health benefits, from boosting metabolism, improving digestion, and lowering cholesterol, not to mention elevating your senses. Here are some suggestions to enhance your oolong tea experience.
Right off the bat, oolong tea can complement delicate and fresh seafood flavors, such as scallops, lobster, shrimp, and fish. And here, we observe our first Golden Rule: lighter oolongs for lighter meals and darker oolongs for more decadent meals.
Thus, a lighter and greener oolong can pair well with seafood dishes that are steamed, grilled, or poached. On the other hand, a darker and roasted oolong can pair well with seafood dishes that are fried, baked, or spiced.
- Grilled meats
Feeling hungry? Oolong tea can balance the rich and smoky flavors of grilled meats, such as duck, beef, lamb, and pork. Again, you must be particular about the oolong you’re dealing with.
Again, our Golden Rule applies. A darker and roasted oolong can enhance the savory and umami notes of grilled meats. In contrast, a lighter and greener oolong can add a refreshing and floral touch.
In this sense, you should pair a dark oolong with duck meat, smoked salmon, or ham or a light oolong with chicken, turkey, or tofu.
Oolong tea can help to soothe the heat and spice of curries, such as Indian, Thai, or Malaysian curries. A darker/roasted oolong can match the intensity and complexity of curries. On the other end, a lighter and greener oolong can contrast the heaviness and creaminess of curries. So, it’s really up to you.
Pair a dark oolong with beef rendang, chicken tikka masala, vegetable korma, or a light oolong with green curry, tom yum soup, or pad thai. That should be worth looking into.
Now on to a dairy product everyone loves: cheese.
Oolong tea can also pair well with cheese, especially aged and hard cheeses with a nutty and salty flavor. Now, you have to make your choice. Going for a darker and roasted oolong can bring out the sweetness and richness of the cheese. A lighter and greener oolong can cut through the fat and acidity of the cheese.
So, if you’re a turophile, pair a dark oolong with cheddar, gouda, or parmesan. Or light oolong with brie, camembert, or goat cheese. And that should make your day.
Remember Golden Rule #2. Then, here’s a concrete application of that.
Oolong tea can also pair well with fruits, especially citrus fruits, with a tangy and refreshing flavor. So, going for a lighter and greener oolong should enhance the sweetness and juiciness of fruits, while picking the darker and roasted oolong is bound to contrast the sourness and bitterness of fruits.
With that said, pairing a light oolong with melon, peach, or mango or a dark oolong with grapefruit, lemon, or orange should be a welcome experience.
For the Baking Department.
Oolong tea can also pair well with pastries, incredibly buttery and flaky pastries with a crisp and light texture. If you want to complement the sweetness and creaminess of pastries then go for a lighter and greener oolong. A darker and roasted oolong, in contrast, can balance the richness and heaviness of pastries.
Being aware of that, it’s great to pair a light oolong with croissants, scones, or macarons or a dark oolong with muffins, brownies, or cheesecakes.
Moreover, oolong tea can pair well with chocolate, especially dark chocolate, which has a bitter and intense flavor. Once again, our Golden Rule.
If you want to match the depth and complexity of chocolate, grab a darker and roasted oolong. But if you want to contrast the smoothness and sweetness of chocolate, go for a lighter and greener oolong.
Thus, you’d be well-advised to pair a dark oolong with dark chocolate truffles, chocolate cake, or chocolate mousse. Truly not a bad idea. Also, a light oolong should go well with white chocolate bars, chocolate-covered strawberries, or chocolate chip cookies.
Truth be told, this smells more like breakfast and timely office breaks.
Indeed, oolong tea can also pair well with sandwiches, especially savory and hearty sandwiches with many fillings and sauces. A darker and roasted oolong is the most suitable choice if you want to enhance the flavor and texture of sandwiches. On the other end of the spectrum, a lighter and greener oolong can add a refreshing and floral touch.
As a result, pairing a dark oolong with ham and cheese, BLT, roast beef sandwiches, or a light oolong with cucumber, egg salad, or chicken salad sandwiches would undoubtedly be a great idea.
For a quick munch, oolong tea can also pair well with salads, especially green and leafy salads with a light and crisp texture. Then, again, we’d have to qualify that.
Should you want to complement the freshness and crunchiness of salads, then, aim for a lighter and greener oolong. But to balance the dressing and toppings of salads, a darker and roasted oolong should be timely.
Try pairing a light oolong with spinach, kale, or arugula salads or a dark oolong with Caesar, Cobb, or Greek salads.
Now, if you want an energy boost with nuts, here’s a breather. Oolong tea can also pair well with roasted and salted nuts, with a crunchy and savory flavor. From our POV, it’s a pairing made in culinary heaven.
A darker and roasted oolong can bring out the nuttiness and richness of nuts, while a lighter and greener oolong can cut through the saltiness and oiliness of nuts. So, go on ahead and pair a dark oolong with almonds, walnuts, or pecans or a light oolong with pistachios, cashews, or macadamias.
Wrapping Things Up
Oolong tea is a versatile and delicious type of tea that can pair well with many different foods. Whether you prefer a lighter and greener oolong or a darker and roasted oolong, you can find the perfect food pairing to suit your taste buds.
Then again, your taste buds should decide for you and not anyone else’s experience. So, OUR FINAL RECOMMENDATION (Golden Rule #3): Experiment with different combinations and enjoy the wonderful world of oolong tea pairings!