Friday, October 22, 2010

Pare Down the Teas to Pair with your Pear

I've lately started to think more about tea-food pairings. It's fall, and this means pear season. I think pears and tea are well-paired in general. Unfortunately, I don't think I chose the best tea to pair with my pear this morning: I drank a Makaibari Estate 1st Flush from Arbor Teas, which is a tea I absolutely love, but for this pairing was too mild, too fruity, and altogether too pear-like. Pictured here is a pear that I just ate, after cutting it with a paring knife (honest! I'm not just trying to make a terrible pun):

So how does one pare down the selection of teas from which to choose from for pairing with your pear? I think the basic ideas to consider when pairing tea with food are contrast and complementation. Contrast ensures your tea does not taste too much like the food, and complementation makes sure that the tea does not clash with the food, nor do you want either to be overpowered. How does this play out with pears?

Pears are very mild so I think contrast, rather than complementation is the key consideration here. This is my personal preference:

  • I'd avoid light, fruity, and sweeter teas. This would include light, fruity Darjeelings, especially first flush, but it would also include Keemun and other black teas with a deeper, earthier quality suggestive of dried fruit or wine, and it would certainly include light oolongs like pouchong and Tung Ting.

  • I'd choose a tea with a fair amount of bitterness. Pears are sweet and have no little to no bitterness, and are well complemented by bitter teas. These could include a strong black tea, or a brisk green tea of either steamed or pan-fired varieties.

  • I'd avoid teas that exhibit more astringency than bitterness, which includes quite a few green teas. Pear skin can have a bit of astringency, and although it's subtle, I find it leaves me unsatisfied if it's not cleared out by some bitterness.

What teas do I most enjoy pairing with pears? I like Foojoy's Triple-Cup Extra Green, which is in many respects I think a very typical example of a Chinese pan-fired green tea. I think gunpowder and chun mee go well with pears. I also like the (now discontinued, but replaced by similar offerings) Himalayan BOP from Upton Tea Imports. This is a high-grown black tea that is pleasingly bitter but not as fruity as most Darjeelings. I think pears also go well with Assam, and with sheng Pu-erh that is young enough to still carry considerable bitterness.

I want to emphasize that this is just my personal taste. A lot of tea companies use pear as a flavoring for white teas or lighter oolongs. I'm not crazy about such blends...they are too weak for me!

A Little About This Particular Pear:

Just like I pay attention to tea and enjoy trying different varieties of tea, I do the same with just about every kind of food out there. The large green pear is a D'Anjou, and the smaller one is a Forelle.

What was this particular pear like? It was sweet, juicy, and delicious! It was labelled as a "Red pear" and I can't tell if it's a red D'Anjou or Red Bartletts. The shape suggests a Bartlett but the flavor, texture of its skin, and the fact that it did not bruise as easily suggest otherwise. The skin of this pear was thin, smooth, and relatively tough for its thinness.

The texture of the flesh, when ripe, is soft, and very creamy, less mealy than a typical D'Anjou or Bartlett at this stage of sweetness. I find regular Bartlett's and D'Anjou's can both get mealy when overripe, whereas the red pears are a bit more pleasing if they're past their prime. I also think that the red pears are also a bit more pleasant when underripe.

Are some pears better for tea than others? I don't think so...pears are really similar to each other; I think if one tea went well with pears, it would probably go well with any variety of pear.


  1. I had a lightly smoky, dark oolong recently that would go well with pears, I think.

  2. I can picture a dark and somewhat smoky oolong going well with pears!

  3. I'm sipping a wonderful Golden Dianhong (Yunnan Black) and munching a crisp, thick-skinned Comice. It is a fantastic pairing.