San Jose and the San Francisco Bay Area are blessed with large Asian populations, people who really love their tea, especially green tea. They also customarily drink certain tisanes, like “barley tea”, but they almost always have a cup of tea nearby, especially at meals. Official tea tasters have come up with more specific recommendations for pairing food with tea. These are from Tea Savoir Faire:
Genmaicha: a green, or un-oxidized tea from Japan, characterized by a toasty, vegetal flavor, due to the fact that Japanese green teas are steamed during processing, and they retain a fresh leafy quality. Recommended food pairings include hamburger, Mexican food, and macaroons.
Gyokuro: a green tea, grown in the shade in the Uji district of Japan, it is characterized by a sweetish flavor. The name translates to “Pearl Dew.” Recommended food pairings include cheese and chocolate desserts, but Gyokuro is most often enjoyed by itself.
Gunpowder: a Chinese green tea characterized by an herbaceous flavor and leaves hand-rolled into pellet shapes. Chinese green teas are not oxidized, but are toasted or roasted, instead of steamed, during processing. Recommended food pairings include Chinese food, lobster, and shortbread.
Hojicha: a Japanese green tea characterized by a nutty flavor. Recommended food pairings include Thai food, fish and brownies.
Jasmine: a scented green tea from China, it is characterized by a flowery flavor and aroma, due to the addition of jasmine blossoms. Recommended food pairings include Thai food, game, and chocolate madeleines.
Lung Ching: a green tea from China, it is also known as “Dragon Well” tea and is a very famous tea. Characterized by “four uniques”: jade color, herbaceous or vegetal aroma, chestnut-like flavor, and flat leaf shape. Recommended food pairings include smoked salmon, cheese, and lemon poppy seed cake.
Matcha: a powdered green tea from Japan, used in the Japanese tea ceremony. Characterized by a bright green color and milky or frothy texture when prepared traditionally with a tea whisk, and a fresh grassy flavor. Recommended food pairings include sushi, steamed fish, and shortbread cookies.
Pi Lo Chun: a famous green tea from China, it is characterized by an apricot-like flavor. Recommended food pairings include marbled tea eggs, steamed dumplings, and oat cakes.
Sencha: a famous Japanese green tea, also known as the “Sauvignon Blanc of Tea”, this tea has a characteristic grassy flavor and aroma, and a light color. Recommended food pairings include sushi, pasta with pesto sauce, and mild cheese scones.
Many, if not all, of these teas can be found at the many Asian markets in the San Jose area. Ranch 99 and Ocean Market are two local chains that sell a variety of teas from Asia. Then, of course, there are two wonderful Japanese markets in San Jose’s Japantown, one near the corner of Empire and North 6th, and the other at the corner of Jackson and North 6th.
Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.
“Review: Vital Tea Leaf Angel green tea and Siberian Rose tisane”
“Japanese tea from San Jose’s Japantown”
“How to prepare matcha tea”
“Review: Sanrotsu matcha tea cookies”
“Review: Japanese Oreo matcha candy bar by Nabisco”
“Matching Tea With Food” from Adagio teas
Tea & Etiquette: Taking Tea for Business and Pleasure, by Dorothea Johnston, of The Protocol School of Washington.
“Tea Acronyms and Terminology” from Carnelian Rose Tea Company
“Tea Brewing Basics” from Harney & Son Fine Teas
“Tea Leaf Varieties” from Imperial Tea Court
“Varieties of Tea” from Adagio Teas