I had the wonderful opportunity of having dinner with two people in the food industry.
I was having a long time, close to the heart, friend and part of her family over for dinner. As I was washing, chopping, and slicing the food for dinner, I thought about what tea to sip on while in the kitchen. The main course was a shrimp boil. I decided to prepare a green tea to enjoy while in the midst of making dinner.
The tea I steeped was a green tea grown and produced in Japan. The tea is steamed instead of pan fired to de-enzyme, or stop oxidation, to keep the leaves from turning brown. Steaming the leaf brings out pronounced vegetal notes in the cup. To me, steamed green tea leaves smell fresh, green, and very similar to a fresh mown lawn on a warm summer’s day. I prepared a cup of Sencha green tea. I enjoyed the sweet, non bitter tasting green bean like flavor profile. The full mouth feel and the savory flavor profile was a perfect pairing of the samplings I consumed from the soon to be served shrimp boil dinner.
Sencha green tea, along with approximately all green green tea, has a flavor profile and mouth feel called umami. Umami is a taste profile that is savory, brothy, or meaty in taste. It is one of the five tastes that we experience in tasting food. The other four taste sensations are sweet, salty, bitter, and sour. In addition to a savory taste, umami lends itself to a full, (I describe it as thick, almost viscous) mouth feel. It is the amino acids in the food (or tea) that are registered on the taste buds as the umami taste. The umami taste in the tea paired wonderfully with the briney, ocean-y, creamy flavor profile of the shrimp.
I continued to chop, slice, and then boil the chicken, sausage, shrimp, potatoes and corn in a large pot. I placed the bread, butter, salad, dressing and cream pies out on the countertop, buffet style. The tea aroma and flavor profile blended richly with the heady aroma of spices, shrimp, corn, and sausage boiling. My only regret was that I did not savor my tea slowly; I had no tea left for the delicious meal.
Among my guests for dinner were two chefs; one who has bartending experience. I guess I should have been intimidated by preparing food for two chefs. But, these were friends, who were like family, and they had a night off from cooking. Plus, it is so easy and foolproof to prepare and serve a shrimp boil. Besides, the dinner was not food focused; it was centered on the company.
Invariably, the dinner conversation turned to food and drinks in general. It was enjoyable to talk about various foods and presentations with such enthusiastic gourmands! We talked about favorite restaurants, food presentations and mixology with tea. Then the cell phones came out and pictures of food were shared. I loved the food passion these two shared, and it was contagious. After having eaten a full dinner and a slice of chocolate cream pie, I was ready to go to a close by mentioned restaurant to experience the fine dining they were describing. I really do enjoy talking to other foodies about anything related to food, beverages, and food service.
We spent several minutes sharing and comparing our food photos on our cell phones. We talked about mixology, and a little bit about hospitality and the pressures of serving food in a fast paced environment. The rest of the dinner guests got involved with the conversation and related their experiences and stories about some of their most memorable meals. It was a wonderful evening with a dear friend and part of her brood that are all family at heart.
Please remember it is not necessarily the tea that you pair with the food you serve, or the level of complexity of the food served that makes a meal. Rather, it is the company and the love shared around a table that makes a meal.
Keep serving tea and food with a touch of love,
Lovelace, MD., Virginia Utermohlen.Tea: A Nerd’s Eye View.VU Books, 2020.
About The Author
Leslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea. No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!