Drinks & Eats

5 Tea and Dessert Pairings

Sweet and astringent, I like to have a cup of English Breakfast with a stroopwafel.
Sweet and astringent, I like to have a cup of English Breakfast with a stroopwafel.
Matcha and panna cotta topped with berries. What could be better?
Matcha and panna cotta topped with berries. What could be better?

Wine isn’t the only beverage that can be paired with foods—tea can and should be enjoyed with desserts! Wine has something called tannins which makes it astringent—or gives you that pulling feeling in your mouth after you take a sip. Astringency balances well with fatty foods because it cuts the grease in fatty foods and fatty foods help with the dry pulling feeling created by astringency—it’s like yin and yang. This is why wine and cheese are a match made in heaven.

Well, tea also has tannins — which makes it a great, non-alcoholic option for pairings. For those of you who think tea and cheese may be a bit out there (even though it totally works!), tea and dessert might be more palatable. Here are some of my favorite pairings.

Black Tea Pairing

Black tea is what most people think of when they hear “tea”. However, there are many different varieties of black tea that have very different flavor profiles. They can range from full bodied and bold to bright and floral to smoky to malty. And there are many more flavor profiles out there!

My first pairing involves a classic—English Breakfast. This is a full-bodied, rich tea. It is warm and bold and has a good amount of tannins—you can tell because after you take the first sip, you feel a slight dryness and a little bitterness in your mouth. Which is why it makes sense to pair it with something fatty to help balance it out.

I like to have a cup of English Breakfast with a stroopwafel. A stroopwafel is a cookie that has a layer of caramel in between two thin wafer layers. The wafer layers are made with a lot of butter, so they almost melt in your mouth. The caramel goes well with the smoky notes and its sweetness counteracts the bitterness from the tannins. You can adjust this pairing depending on your own preference; I take a plain cup of piping hot English Breakfast and keep my stroopwafel separate. However, you can add a splash of milk and sugar or dunk your cookie in your tea—or do both! Any method is surely to be enjoyable. This is my go-to cozy dessert for when I’m watching movies!

Two Oolong Pairings

Oolong tea is a wide-ranging group as well—I would even say the variety in flavor profiles is greater than black tea! One of my favorites is the Milk Oolong. It is called Milk Oolong for a reason, it is so creamy and sweet—without adding anything! It is incredible the flavor profile it has on its own.

Because of it has a distinct sweetness to it, I like to have chocolate covered strawberries. This pair goes well because it doesn’t overpower the sweetness of the tea and the tartness from the strawberries goes well with the creaminess of the tea. Milk Oolong isn’t particularly astringent, so you don’t need something super fatty to balance it out. I find drinking this tea with a fruit dessert gives it a nice freshness. This is something that I would go for in the summer. I usually have a hot cup of Milk Oolong and use dark chocolate for the strawberries.

Other variations of this could be using milk chocolate for the strawberries, making an iced cup of tea, or trying the strawberries with a cup of Coconut Pouchong. For a more tropical feel. I wouldn’t recommend using white chocolate because it is very sweet and would overpower the natural sweetness and buttery flavor of the tea. This is what I’ll grab on a warm night while watching the sunset!

Matcha Pairing

Matcha is a type of green tea although it is usually kept a category of its own. It is powdered green tea leaves, so when you make a cup of match, you are drinking the leaves itself. Therefore matcha is very astringent—normally a cup of tea gets its astringency from steeping the leaves. The longer you steep, the more astringent the tea comes out. But with matcha, you are drinking the leaves. So, it can create a very drying feeling in your mouth. Therefore, you need something high in fat content to pair it with.

I like to have a cup of Matcha with panna cotta topped with berries. Panna cotta is a dessert made from cream—it has a similar texture to custard. It is very rich, velvety, and-you guessed — it fatty. Which is why it is perfect to enjoy with matcha! The astringency meets its match with the richness of the panna cotta. I like to add berries because matcha has a vegetal flavor that pairs nicely with the freshness of fruit. You could change this up by making a different flavor of panna cotta since it is traditionally vanilla. You could even try making matcha panna cotta! I wouldn’t recommend having iced matcha because panna cotta is a chilled dessert. This is my dessert of choice when I’m feeling a “me time” night complete with a bubble bath and a great book.

White Tea Pairing

White tea is the most delicate in terms of flavor profiles. The flavors usually lean towards vegetal, fruity, slightly sweet, refreshing. I like to have an iced cup of Silver Needle with a peach galette. A galette is a freeform tart, the crust usually isn’t very sweet and is thin. White teas go well with fruit desserts because anything more dense, rich, or overly sweet will overpower the tea. I think the honeyed, slightly sweet, light flavor goes really well with peaches, but you can use any fruit that isn’t too sweet and is juicy. I like to go for this on a super rainy, spring evenings. The iced tea and fresh fruit elements give this pairing a refreshing feel that I like to go for when it is raining—it all feels very cleansing.

Now that I’ve given you a few ideas on how to pair tea with desserts, I encourage you to try some out on your own. Try things that you wouldn’t normally think to try together, experiment with flavor profiles and, most importantly, have fun! And when you are ready to take your pairings to the next level, I’ll be here with some tea and cheese suggestions!