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A beginner’s guide to food and tea pairings

Tea contains no caffeine… it is low in tannins and you can drink as much of it as you want, unlike other hot beverages that may have a diuretic effect. Picture: Pexels

Tea contains no caffeine… it is low in tannins and you can drink as much of it as you want, unlike other hot beverages that may have a diuretic effect. Picture: Pexels

Published May 19, 2021


When having a simple cup of tea is just not enough, it’s time to experiment with tea and food pairing. Yes, tea goes great with many dishes, desserts and even chocolate.

Experts reveal that you can pair all food with tea. In fact, tea and food have always been an excellent match.

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They reveal that similar to a bottle of wonderful wine, a pot of delicious tea can enhance and complement flavours of any dish – from savoury to sweet. Just like wine, some teas go well with spicy food, while others may be great with very sweet desserts.

Below, tea sommelier, Jessica Bonin, shares some tasting notes to demonstrate the range and depth of some of our local rooibos infusions that have recently exploded on to the scene.

Bonin says pairing tea with food allows one to experience enhanced flavours through the complementary elements of various ingredients, and that it presents your palette with a new depth of taste brought about by a specific tea.

“Rooibos has an incredibly versatile flavour that makes it the perfect base for an array of ingredients. Tea enthusiasts can experiment by adding herbs, fruits, flowers and even spices. The flavour cascades are infinite,” she says.

Here’s how you can go about pairing your favourite rooibos drink.

Chamomile and green rooibos

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Chamomile has a woody, creamy and peachy taste with honey-floral undertones, which complements anything fruity or sweet, such as scones or shortbread, while the earthy flavour of green rooibos complements savoury sandwiches and meat dishes, such as roast lamb or beef.

Ginger and vanilla

The mellow and tangy mouthfeel of rooibos and ginger adds balance to curry or spicy foods, whereas rooibos and vanilla pairs beautifully with sponge cakes, custard and sweet tarts.

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Cinnamon and buchu

The velvety, dusty sweetness of rooibos and cinnamon makes it ideal at breakfast time with croissants or scones, while the mildly astringent taste of rooibos and buchu matches well with fruit, such as peaches, apples, citrus, prunes, blackcurrant, pineapple and meat dishes. It also goes well with heavy meals.

Mint and chai

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Rooibos and mint is a palate cleanser and acts as a digestive. It is drunk after heavy and rich meals or in-between courses. The bold flavours and rich aroma of rooibos chai make it ideal with anything chocolaty – think dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, chocolate fondant, and even works well in meat marinades. It’s also delicious with Brie spread on a toasted baguette.

Lemon and rosehip

Rooibos and lemon add a slightly astringent note with a crisp aftertaste that compliments honey and ginger, while the luscious syrupy and juicy taste of rooibos and berry is always a winner with figs, lavender and even gin. The refreshing taste of rooibos and rosehip makes it an ideal afternoon refresher with salads and savoury snacks.

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