Here's what Jason said about the ingredients for the pairings:
"We used an aged Gruyère and an aged white cheddar. We used a tea from my farm [The Great Mississippi Tea Company - http://www.greatmsteacompany.com] that is best categorized as a dark oolong or a lightly oxidized black tea. We also used a dark tea from Nepal that Jeni supplied."
|Jason McDonald with the cheese!|
"The cheddar has a number of compounds in common with oolongs...don't remember whether you were still there when we smelled indole at WTE [World Tea Expo]. It has an animalic smell that is characteristic of oolongs, and contributes to oolong's complexity. In addition, both cheddar and oolongs have a number of compounds that have an almond quality [including benzaldehyde], and dimethyl sulfide, which has a marine smell. All of these compounds activate the warm receptors. The result is that the tea and the cheese will enhance each other."I should add that the fattiness of the cheese would turn off the hot receptors (TRPV1), so the flavors of the compounds that activate the warm receptors would be enhanced.
Meanwhile, Jeni Dodd gave me more detail about her Nepalese tea, which she had cold-brewed overnight. She wrote:
"As for the Nepalese tea I used. It is a black oolong from the Ilam (more specifically Maipokhara) region in the Eastern part of Nepal. There are two main tea growing regions Ilam and Dhankhuta. The oxidation of this particular tea is about 55-65%."This tea is called Wild Sunset tea. As Jeni noted, here's why:
"My friend, whom I consider one of the best tea makers in Nepal, discovered a tea garden that had been growing wild for almost 30 years. This garden was at the epicenter of the 2015 7.8 devastating earthquake.Here's how Jeni describes the tea:
My friend decided to leave the successful tea garden he had been at in order to cultivate this garden in order to bring economic stability back to this devastated region. I requested to him to keep some of the wild growth since you cannot replicate 30 years of wild growth easily. This tea from the first harvest of the wild growth after 30 years. It is processed as a dark tea and right now has about 1 year of age on it."
"It is smooth and full-bodied. I find hints of cherry, but a cooked cherry, a sweeter cherry. But the sweetness is balanced by a maltiness. There is little to no astringency and the finish lingers. The finishing notes are a bit smoky, a bit tobaccoey. When you inhale, you find the cooling sensation that has been informed by the Eucalpytus trees growing in the area. But there isn't a minty flavor. There is a brightness to the tea, I think it must be that cooling effect. But it is so nicely balanced and grounded by the maltiness."To me this description is rich in hints about the chemical composition of the tea!
First about the cooling sensation that Jeni says comes from eucalyptus trees going nearby: the chemical that gives eucalyptus its aroma is 1,8-cineol, which does bind to both the cool (TRPM8) and the cold (TRPA1) receptors. That's why it gives eucalyptus that cooling sensation when inhaled. 1,8-cineol has an herbal quality, but not very much a minty one. This compound will give a brightness to the tea, but, as I noted in my most recent post, cool sensations don't last long and can be overtaken by sensations provided by activation of the warm and hot receptors. Activation of these receptors lasts in the mouth, hence the long smoky tobacco-ey finish.
As for the sweetness, that probably comes from benzaldehyde and methyl salicylate. Depending on context, benzaldehyde can seem almond-like or cherry-like. It's my impression that the flavor shifts more to cherry in the presence of compounds that activate the "warm" (TRPV3) and "hot" (TRPV1) receptors.
So what about maltiness? and the smoky tobacco-ey finish? I am going to ask Jeni about the wood or coal that was used for baking or roasting the tea and for how long. Depending on the method, you will get the formation of compounds such as 2-ethyl furan, which has a classic malty flavor. That's a compound in Indian teas that gives them a rich maltiness. It, and a host of smoky and tobacco-ey compounds, all activate "hot" receptors.
It turns out that the Nepalese tea went well with the aged Gruyère. Its lower fat content meant that it didn't interfere with the ability to taste the subtleties of the tea derived from activation of TRPV1. As Kyle said:
"Cold-brewing leaves behind the catechins (astringency) and accentuates the top notes (fruity, floral) of this amazing oolong. Without the astringency, the cold brewed oolong did not pair as well with the high-fat cheeses. The British used milk to soften the astringency of English Breakfast tea."Furthermore, as Kyle noted:
"The black raisin and green apple notes of the tea blended beautifully with the earthy, nutty and bosc pear notes of the Gruyère."One of the compounds that gives Gruyère its nutty flavor is 2,6-dimethyl pyrazine. This compound is known to be in black tea, and is formed when the tea leaves are heated up during processing. My guess is that—given the color of the tea and Jeni's mention of smokiness—this tea was sufficiently baked/roasted to create this compound along with the malt flavored compounds.
Jason has the last word for this post:
"The teas made the cheese more intense in both cases. It seemed that it was a good pairing side by side because one of the cheeses went flat and the other became bold with both teas. It was also interesting that they were opposite of each other. So, it was a happy coincidence."
* According to Kyle "TexSom (Texas Sommelier) is an annual wine education conference held at The Four Seasons Resort in Dallas. The Cultured Cup, which also sells coffee, has been a sponsor of this conference since its inception 12 years ago."