WARNING! I have committed the #1 blogger sin: I didn’t take photos for this post!! I got so excited about tasting, I completely forgot to break out the camera! Mea culpa!
Thanks to some recent visits to local cheesemakers (blog posts and photos are in the works!), I have found my fridge overflowing with top-notch local cheeses. What could I do with (some of) them? Pair them with TEA! I’ve been waiting for nearly 10 months for this chance to do a tea and cheese experiment, so I seized the moment.
Here was the lineup!
Bellwether Farms Crescenza: based on the Italian Stracchino di Crescenza, this fresh cheese is buttery and creamy with a surprisingly strong, sour tang at the end.
Bellwether Farms San Andreas: inspired by Italian Pecorino, it is the smoother, creamier California version. There’s a hit of the characteristic sheepy, woolliness that comes with ewe’s cheese along with a toasty almond (or is it hazelnut?) nuttiness that I love.
Bellwether Farms Carmody: Bellwether’s most popular cheese! This is a hard cow’s milk cheese with lots of cream and butter flavor, a hearty dose of nuttiness, and a slight sour tang at the finish.
Weirauch Farm Saint Rose: another excellent, local nutty sheep cheese, this time from Joel and Carleen Weirauch. Pretty mild as far as the gamey taste goes, clean finish.
Bleating Heart Cheese Fat Bottom Girl: More sheep, this time from Petaluma! We definitely had a sheep extravaganza going on at this pairing. This one, made by Seana Doughty and Dave Dalton, is semi-hard, on the buttery side, and slightly nutty. EXCEPT—it sports a washed rind, so you get a bit of sweaty sock goodness near the rind (but it’s pretty mild, say my tastebuds).
Redwood Hill Farm raw goat feta: Mmm mmm good. I love me some goat milk, and this cheese lets the goat tang shine. Because most of the fetas out there include sheep or cow milk, it softens the tang. Not Redwood Hill Farm feta, though. This is some dense, vibrant cheese!
I invited some neighbors for the taste experiment, and asked them to bring their favorites.
Tea Forte Ginger herbal tea: a delicately flavored tisane. I’d imagine this would be perfect to snuggle up at night with.
Earl Grey: a classic tea blend with citrusy bergamot and a slightly bitter finish, from Harney & Sons.
Kookiedoodle: A unique blend made by the local Leland Tea Company with black tea flavored with strong notes of hazelnut and vanilla.
Coconut green tea: A flavorful, full-bodied tea that had me thinking tropical dessert.
Matcha green tea: From Aiya, this was our frothy final tea. Naturally sweet (although I added some sugar as well), it was a real treat.
All in all, I had a positive experience. However, we learned that drinking tea on a Friday evening was not everyone’s idea of a good time. That aside, the tea winner of the evening was the matcha. On the cheese side, I found the Crescenza was a fabulous pairing partner, probably thanks to that sour tangy finish.
Earl Grey: I thought the Earl Grey would be a good pairing tea because of its citrusy notes and strong body. Strangely, it wasn’t. The cheeses overpowered the tea in about half the cases. Even amongst the three ewe’s cheeses, we had three different results. San Andreas completely overpowered the tea, while Saint Rose brought out an extra bitterness in the tea. Fat Bottom Girl seemed to be the winning sheep pairing here, creating some great complementary flavors with the tea. The best Earl Grey pairing, though, was with the goat feta. The cheese’s texture broke down to give the tea an extra creaminess, and the tea brought out an extra smokiness in the tea.
Kookiedoodle: Everyone thought this would be a great pairing tea. It’s got lots of body and loads of natural sweetness, along with that nutty, vanilla flavor. I guess we were all wrong. Nothing worked very well with it, mainly because any sour notes in the cheese didn’t work well with the tea. No go!
Ginger herbal tea: A bit of a mixed bag in terms of paring. Everyone thought it paired nicely with the Crescenza, where the ginger complemented that sour tang perfectly. Everyone also noticed that the Saint Rose brought out a spicy, lemongrass quality in the tea (although not everyone liked that). Reactions to pairing with the goat feta were also strong—some people loved that the tea made the cheese much sharper, but others didn’t.
Coconut green tea: Crescenza worked so well with this! Everyone but my coconut-hating M. Cheesemonger loved it. It tasted like dessert—a coconut, green tea cheesecake dessert. The tea also worked well with San Andreas, bringing out the cheese’s nuttiness and prolonging its finish. In the Saint Rose, the tea teased out an extra sour note in the cheese that surprised everyone.
Matcha green tea: The tea and Crescenza joined forces to create a sort of matcha ice cream effect, which I loved! Saint Rose also paired well; something about its texture helped prolong the finish of the tea without overwhelming it. The Goat feta paired well also, the salt complementing the tea’s natural sweetness well. The tea’s full body stood up well to the feta so well!