The Teetotaler’s Guide to Pairing Cheese and Tea

Now, you might think a mug of tea and a hunk of cheese make an odd couple, especially during a month when Champagne and Brie is the hot match. But isn’t this supposed to be the season of surprises?

And don’t you have holiday guests who prefer their eggnog straight, rather than spiked? This special set of pairings – developed over a series of afternoons with my blogger friend Alexis Siemons of Teaspoons & Petals – is the non-alcoholic guest’s companion.

Keep these teetotaling tips in your back pocket for a holiday open house, a weekend brunch, or a rejuvenating snack at work. When snow flurries out your window make you crave something hot and hearty, just boil water and prepare a nibble.

Below you’ll find three pairings that feature Di Bruno Bros. cheeses and loose-leaf tea from Premium Steap, a beautifully curated tea shop on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia – just around the corner from the flagship Di Bruno Bros. at 19th and Chestnut Street. You can hit the cheese counter and the tea counter in a single swoop, which is what I like to do on a gray day.

Huge thanks to cheesemonger Rocco Rainone of 9th Street for his brainstorms here. And oodles of gratitude to Alexis for helping me marry tea and dairy in the dreamiest of ways.

Three Pairings: Tea + Cheese

Five-Year Aged Pu-erh + Reading Raclette

Mushroomy Pu-erh is a fermented dark tea from China that pairs well with Alpine cheeses, especially this raw-milk Reading Raclette from Vermont. If you’ve never had a Pu-erh, “imagine going into a forest after the rain,” Alexis says. “It smells and tastes like damp earth.”

This combination is warming and savory, much like French onion soup. The tea is brothy, and the cheese is sensuous with heavy notes of roasted garlic; all you need are some toast points. Try this pairing after a cold hike, or offer it as an afternoon pick-me-up. Note: Pu-erh tea is good for digestion.

Roasted Genmaicha + Testun Malto d’Orzo

Toasted brown rice adds nutty complexity to this green tea from Japan – think of cut grass and walnuts. “It reminds me of a spring campfire,” Alexis says. Those roasty notes pair perfectly with Testun Malto d’Orzo, a wildly eclectic sheep’s milk cheese from Piedmont that is rolled in whiskey-soaked barley malt.

Try this combo after dinner – this whiskey-soaked cheese is sweet, like a sticky bun with a salty backside. Note: Genmaicha has very little caffeine, so it’s an ideal night-night cup.

Spiced Chai + Anton’s Peppered Ass

Pairing a cup of spicy black chai with a creamy dreamy produces “a latte affect,” Alexis says. And she’s right! Anton’s Peppered Ass – a recent release from the Bavarian company that makes Anton’s Red Love – contains whole green peppercorns that underscore the ingredients in chai (ginger, clove, peppercorns).

Bring this combination to your holiday party, along with a box of ginger cookies, and no one will make you claim the ugly white elephant gift. Candied fruit peel or candied ginger also pair nicely.

For more cheese pairing ideas, please visit Madame Fromage.