Breakfast tea

On my recent trip to Shanghai I made a stop in my hometown. I stayed the night, and the next morning my hosts brought me to a teahouse to have something very local – breakfast tea, with noodles

The noodles are in the bowl in an aged mushroom broth. The other stuff you see, from left to right, are pork chop, ginger strips, bamboo shoots, veggies, and smoked fish. All of these are supposed to be thrown on top of the noodles before consumption. As for the tea? Local Yushan green tea, which is not exactly the most elegant thing on Earth, is rather sweet, and goes down really well with local noodle breakfast.

When I first drank the tea, it’s the typical Yushan green tea taste. After the noodles, though, it actually got sweeter – partly because it’s a bit more diluted now, having been refilled with water, but partly also because I just had a bowl of noodles. Food, of course, changes how you perceive your tea, which is why I normally don’t eat snacks when I drink tea.

When you drink a lot of tea gongfu style, it is easy to forget that there is a world of people, in fact, the majority of drinkers in China, who drink green tea day in, day out. Tea is also mostly drunk with meals, and a really strong, bitter tea doesn’t often go well with a lot of food. On the other hand, green tea, with its refreshing and sweet taste (if it’s good, anyway) goes down great with a lot of foods. This is especially true if the local cuisine is a little heavier in taste. In Guangdong, where the local cuisine is more delicate, a stronger tea (like cooked puerh) might actually contrast well with the food. Food and tea pairing is definitely something people should start working on, although I think it is not easy to do – mostly because of the problems of preparation (what do you do when you’re halfway into a meal – rebrew new tea? You can have some serious caffeine problems that way). Maybe someone should think about how to resolve these issues.


Comments

Breakfast tea — 8 Comments

  1. ?
    Surely your ancestors have already done so–the science of pairing tea with food that is–centuries ago?
    I’d be very surprised if it weren’t the case. It is not like tea is a new drink and we are just now beginning to realize that different teas complement food in different ways.
    Considering China’s very long and very illustrious history of gastronomic culture, tea culture, and the medicinal considerations which often influenced them both, I’d really be floored if it hasn’t already been worked out.
    Case in point, Yushan Green Tea with noodle breakfast. It’s been done for us.
    That does indeed look like an awesome breakfast.
    If I may ask, how much did it cost?

    • Well, sure, but there must be other combinations that haven’t been done for us. Back then choices in tea were limited – now we have a lot more variety both in food and in tea. Figuring out good combinations will take some work.

      I didn’t pay the bill, so I have no idea, but I think it’s around 50 RMB a head.

      • Point taken. I wonder whether anypony in the past has set out a more general scheme from which we could start; like which of the five flavors or consistencies go best with what kind of teas were known to the authors at the time, etc.? Not that we’d slavishly adhere to it or anything, but an idea of the considerations involved and principles which were applied could possibly help us consider and apply them in the twenty-first century.
        I am only a young padawan, so I have yet to obtain copies (and translations) of the classical Chinese and Japanese books on tea.
        Here’s to learning from the masters! (it’s tasty, I’m drinking 2014 sheng pu-erh)
        (no I assure you it really is tasty)
        50 RMB! I think I’d go broke…

  2. What tea would you have with durian ?? 🙂 A group of tea drinkers actually did do some pairings sometime ago n one of the pairings was actually with durian but I forget which tea went with it.
    Su

  3. In the west we throw ice cubes in it and call it iced tea. I think it is about adding a bitter or acid to a meal that lacks such contrast, such as a meal has consisting of carbs and protein. Americans who don’t drink iced tea or any tea might instead have coffee at the end of the meal. I might have a diet cola with a meal but generally at home I have black tea afterward. In the summer, however, I might drink refrigerator steeped green tea in a tall glass that looks much like what is in the photo here. The fresh greens might have a little bit of vitamins meals such as this one lack.

  4. I’d heard that cheap shu pu-erh with chrysanthemum blossoms was a popular compliment to dim sum in Hong Kong, but you’d know more about that than me. I can say though that sweet black tea is fantastic with Arabic food, and at least in the states the go-to pairing with Vietnamese food is yellow-tin jasmine green (the ubiquitous Sunflower Brand).
    Masala Chai with Indian food (at least Northern Indian) is also delicious, I think in part because chai masala and garam masala share several core spices, and the high fat content of the milk tempers some of the heat.

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