When high tea became a lesson by Akashdeep Singh Dhiman on pairing snacks with this popular drink.
Words and photographs: Ambica Gulati
Tea is almost a ritual in India but now it’s evolved beyond the homemade kadak chai in which spices were added to make it even more kadak. Flavoured and green tea has been around for a long time but Akashdeep Singh Dhiman, from Under One Roof Consultants, went a step ahead to explain the foods which work well with each flavour. This two-hour pairing session at Hinglish Café Beach Bar, Delhi, was about discovering some simple things which add more zing to your palate and more knowledge on your platter.
With sunlight pouring in through the large glass windows on the blue interiors, the session took off with some cold infusions. A very stylish container, something straight out of a laboratory, came with apple and cinnamon tea. The taste lies in the fact that both the ingredients are soaked for some time before the tea is made. This is what gives it the right flavours. After that came the orange and rose tea. This was a tricky one, as I sipped into a juicy concoction which didn’t feel like tea at all. Faux pas! Dhiman got it made again, this time the right way. In the process, I learned that the right juice and right quantity makes the difference in balancing the flavours.
Now for the hot teas, the normal tea bag is nothing but dust. But teas like chamomile or hibiscus are dried flowers. And the time of infusion makes the difference in the flavour and taste of the tea. So when infused for three minutes, it’s a lighter flavour, but longer than five minutes means it could border on the bitter flavours. Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule as a lot depends on the individual palate.
Between sips of chamomile, hibiscus, Assam and green teas, Dhiman enlightened that it’s best not to taste your tea after brushing your teeth or even washing your hands with soap. The fragrance of these substances lingers and you actually can’t get the right flavours. In fact, professional tea tasters don’t brush their teeth for months so as to get the correct flavour. But its okay to swirl water in your mouth and throw out the waste stuck in the mouth.
Another interesting thing is that the flavours of the tea need to complement the flavours of the food. For instance, chamomile goes well with Dahi Kebab, Assam with strong flavours of Chicken Panini and green with fish and paneer. To test this out, I took a bite of dahi kebab and then a sip of Assam tea—Dhiman was right, it killed the flavours of the kebab and Assam was the only flavour in my mouth. So light flavours means light teas, hard ones go well with hard tea. No wonder then that the hot samosa and kadak chai have been India’s hot favourite all-time meal.
Though I didn’t try the desserts but the flavour of the dessert has to match the flavour of the tea too. So next time you order your snacks, try pairing them out to feel satiated.
In a nutshell
- Milk can be put in black tea as it is strong enough to create a balance. But in the lighter teas, milk being an overpowering agent, kills the flavours.
- Eat your bite completely and then sip your tea to get the right flavour.
- Spicy Indian foods work well with black tea.
- Green is best drunk with paneer and fish dishes.
- Western foods go well with white tea.
- Hibiscus goes well with all things creamy.
Hinglish: Cafe, beach bar in Pacific Mall, Subhash Nagar, Delhi