Drinking tea has a way of bringing people together. There is something ritualistic about pouring freshly boiled water over tea bags or loose tea leaves in a tea pot.
Tea ceremonies and parties take place all over the world. They often involve special kinds of chinaware, table settings, seating arrangements, and, most importantly, foods.
On the Indian subcontinent, traditional Chai Masala is often served with savory foods in the morning, such as the traditional Indian breakfast of idli and dosa. In the afternoon, Chai is often served with fruit and traditional sweets like laddu and barfi.
In Britain, afternoon tea is served with delicate scones, finger sandwiches, and sponge cakes, all served on tiered trays.
Here is a run-through of the best foods to enjoy with a piping hot mug of black tea. This brief guide is based on the specific flavor profiles of the different black tea varieties, as well as on traditional food and tea combinations.
What goes well with black tea?
Black tea pairs well with rich, dense foods. On the savory side of things, black tea complements roasted red meats, smoked fish, charred vegetables, and smoked cheeses. Milky black tea makes a delicious dessert tea and pairs well with chocolate, cheesecakes, and carrot cakes.
Best foods to pair with black tea
Black teas fall into four primary flavor profiles: Smoky, earthy, malty, and fruity.
Smokier black teas pair well with richer, oilier foods. Malty and earthier teas pair nicely with dense, savory foods. Fruity black teas are sweeter and should be enjoyed alongside sweet desserts and fruit, or light savory dishes.
Some black tea varieties combine elements of two or even all three of these flavor profiles.
Best pairings for Assam black tea
Assam tea is a fragrant, smoky black tea grown in the Assam region of India. It has a malty, roasted aftertaste with a smooth finish.
With so many varieties available, it can be difficult to how to drink black tea, as they all have such different tastes. As a rule, Assam tea is best when served with milk and sugar.
Assam frequently features in breakfast tea blends, like English and Irish breakfast tea and Earl Grey tea. It has a rich, full-bodied, complex texture and its high tannin content gives it a lightly astringent taste.
This rich, complex taste pairs perfectly with savory breakfast foods and with red, roasted meat.
A full English breakfast, with toast, buttery eggs, and charred sausages is the perfect match for a milky Assam tea.
Because of its rich body, Assam also tastes great with spicy food.
Best pairings for Darjeeling black tea
Like Assam, Darjeeling is one of the regions in the world best known for producing black tea.
Darjeeling black tea has an aromatic, fruity flavor profile. It has a delicate, muscatel taste. Darjeeling is often enjoyed without milk or sugar because so that its floral notes can come out more fully.
Darjeeling tea is harvested in different flushes. The first flush is made from tea leaves plucked in the early spring. It is often referred to as the “champagne of teas.”
Like champagne, first flush Darjeeling pairs well with light sweets, such as macaroons or lemon tarts.
It also tastes delectable when enjoyed alongside smoked salmon or caviar. A fresh brew of first flush Darjeeling also pairs well with gently acidic, vegetal foods, such as creamy goat cheese.
Later flushes of Darjeeling pair well with fish dishes. You can serve a fresh pot of Darjeeling with smoked trout, salmon, or with duck.
You can also opt to drink Darjeeling with a cheese board featuring Brie, Camembert, and Edam.
Darjeeling also tastes delicious as a dessert tea. Why not serve it with cheesecake or carrot cake?
Best pairings for Ceylon black tea
Ceylon black tea is grown in the highlands of Sri Lanka. It is a bold, earthy black tea, with medium-to-full tannins.
The notes of citrus and chocolate in Ceylon are complemented by fresh milk, which softens any astringency or bitterness in the tea.
Ceylon is also drunk without milk, and when enjoyed black is often served with a slice or squeeze of lemon.
Ceylon’s rich, slightly nutty flavor makes it a great drink to enjoy with savory dishes.
Serve a pot of black Ceylon tea with a hearty rack of BBQ ribs and mashed potatoes. It also tastes great with a slice of oven-baked lasagna.
Milky Ceylon tastes fantastic with rich desserts. Try a mug of steaming hot Ceylon alongside a rich chocolate and espresso gateau.
Best pairings for Earl Grey tea
What is the difference between Earl Grey and black tea? Earl Grey tea is made of black tea leaves––usually Ceylon leaves––that have been flavored with bergamot oil.
Sipping on a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea is a daily ritual for many British people. In addition to being enjoyed as a breakfast drink, Earl Grey has traditionally been served at Afternoon Tea and at High Tea.
Afternoon Tea primarily features sweet treats and light sandwiches. Earl grey tastes lovely paired with fresh fruit scones with clotted cream and jam. It also tastes good with light, cucumber and ham finger sandwiches.
Unlike Afternoon Tea, which was historically a high-class affair, High Tea was a workman’s meal. High Tea traditionally involved a hearty dish served in the early evening.
High Tea is associated with meat and fish pies, as well as rugged rye breads and stews, and even rich treacle and pudding desserts. High Tea is always served with a strong, warm pot of Earl Grey or black tea.
Early Grey pairs also pairs exceedingly well with shortbread cookies, lemon pastries, and dark chocolate.
Best pairings for Lapsang Souchong
Lapsang Souchong is probably the best known smoky black tea. This Chinese black tea variety is made of leaves that are smoke-dried over pinewood fires.
Because of its strong, full-bodied aroma, Lapsang Souchong tastes delicious paired with foods that can match its intense flavor profile.
Try serving Lapsang Souchong with a smoked cheddar and rye crackers as a tasty hors d’oeuvre.
When it comes to main dishes, Lapsang Souchong tastes delicious served with blackened meat and charred vegetables.
Alternatively, serve it with milk and sugar and a sweet chocolate dessert.
Best pairings for Masala Chai
Masala Chai is a traditional Indian spiced tea made using water, Assam tea leaves, milk, sugar and spices.
It pairs delightfully with deep fried, spicy snacks. Serve warm, milky chai with Aloo Parathas, Pakoras, or Samosas for an authentic Indian tea-time experience.
Masala Chai also makes a great dessert drink and pairs well with traditional Indian sweets, such as ladu and barfi.