Step aside, fancy tasting menus with wine pairings. Now, it's all about expertly combining food with tea. Discover these six pairings that deliver a healthy way to tap into complementary flavors
Chai Tea + Lentils
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"The major ingredients in chai—black tea, cinnamon, ginger, clove, cardamom, and black pepper—are a combination of powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatories," says Lauren Blake, a registered dietitian at The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. High-fiber and protein-rich lentils could help strengthen these benefits, she adds.
Earl Grey Tea + Dark Chocolate or Citrus
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"Earl Grey is essentially a black tea that has been scented with bergamot oil, so you'll want to pair this with a dish that either has citrus notes or complements citrus notes," says tea specialist Kathy YL Chan. Think antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, a perfectly ripe grapefruit, or lemon flavors. Try serving a savory chicken tagine with preserved lemons and a mug of the classic black tea, she suggests. (We also love these Healthy Chocolate Dessert Recipes.)
Oolong Tea + Roasted Chicken
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Oolong teas (and green teas too) can be just as complex as wine. "There are hundreds of different types of tea that fall into these categories," says Chan. Oolong, for example, could be a light or dark roast, aged or young, picked in the winter during peak sweetness or in the summer for an entirely different flavor. You can dive into plenty of different pairings within the oolong category alone, but Chan likes roasted chicken best. "My favorite types of oolong teas have a distinct roasted note, which naturally goes well with a whole roasted chicken," she says. "The tea brings out the sweetness of the chicken and vice versa." Bonus: The chicken's protein could also help your body absorb the tea's benefits, Blake says. (Try one of these 12 Quick, Delicious Chicken Recipes for Lunch.)
Green Tea + Steamed Fish
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Tea-pairing rule No. 1: Match teas and foods from similar origins, says Chan. Japanese green tea complements fresh fish just like French wines go best with French dishes. "The best pairings are not only when the flavors complement but when they also help to enhance the taste of the other," she says. Most green teas, like sencha, come from Japan, so they work well with Japanese dishes, Chan says. Try a hot cup of sencha with steamed salmon, which is packed with healthy omega-3s and protein, soy sauce, and rice. "It's a really clean, simple, and elegant meal," she says.
Peppermint Tea + Pine Nuts
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"Pine nuts are considered a healthy fat and are also a good source of protein, vitamins K and E, copper and manganese, and fiber," Blake says. Enjoy a handful with a cup of refreshing peppermint tea. Or, see how the peppermint flavor notes work with dishes containing pine nuts, like pesto, says Chan.
Ginger Tea + Dried Fruit
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Chan grew up in a traditional Chinese family and recalls enjoying freshly made ginger tea after dinner. "We always had it with dried fruits like persimmons and winter melon, which is believed to help digestion after a meal," she says. Ginger boasts some major digestion benefits on its own: It aids in digestion and helps soothe stomach issues like nausea and motion sickness, says Blake.