A New Trend Is Brewing: Tea Sommeliers

Want to know what kind of tea to drink with that cookie? Consult a tea sommelier.
Some tea from a teapot is given in a transparent mug

Some tea from a teapot is given in a transparent mug

Sommeliers in restaurants, as we all know, usually recommend the right wine to drink with a dish. The right pairing can summon amazing flavors, just as the wrong one can completely knock the taste of everything off track.

Now there are people who do the same thing for tea, NPR’s The Salt blog reports. Yes, tea sommeliers are an actual thing.

Aurelie Bessiere, a tea expert and sommelier, tells The Salt that a tea sommelier can, like a wine sommelier, advise you on pairings “depending on what kind of tea you want to drink, what time of the day it is, and what you're eating.”

"The whole idea of pairing tea with food is that you should have a tea that's going to enhance the flavor of the food, or vice versa," she explains. "What you want to happen in your mouth is to feel the different layers of taste and flavors of both tea and food."

Tea sommeliers have their own training programs, associations and aroma wheel to guide them and are able to carefully tailor their advice to the diner, dish and situation. They are increasingly a presence at fine-dining establishments, including Eleven Madison Park and Atera in New York City.

But do they actually make a difference? In fact, having the right tea paired with your meal is a dramatic experience, impressing even skeptics, Jeff Ruiz, head of Atera’s tea program, insists, adding that it can “unlock a third flavor."

For those who care to try a perfect pairing at home, NPR recommends sipping Nepal Arya Tara black tea with aged cheddar to enhance “the sweet, fruity notes of both the tea and the cheese,” Kabuse green with melted chocolate to “unlock a flavor similar to pure cantaloupe,” and Bao Zhong imperial oolong tea with a madeleine to make it melt in your mouth and bring out its “buttery and citrus notes.” That last combo sounds potentially Proustian, no?

Photo courtesy of iStock
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