The French Cheese Board hosted a unique cheese and tea pairing, on June 4, 2015 for select media.
2004-Aged White Peony (Origin: Fuding, Fujian Province, China, 2004)
A sophisticated 10-year-old Bai Mu Dan harvested in Fuding, northeast Fujian; this brew opens with notes of oak, dry autumnal leaves, cocoa, and black currant. White teas are minimally processed, and were once exclusively reserved for the highest-ranking officials. Bai Mu Dan consists of both buds and leaves.
Kikuya, Bellocq blended tea
A handcrafted blend of organic Japanese Sencha, rose petals and the evocative essence of Bulgarian rose. Emerald leaves that front rich, buttery oceanic and grassy notes, balance beautifully with the voluptuous scent of rose. The resulting pale jade liquor is at once fragrant and refreshing with a long, blissful finish. Sencha is the most widely known green tea of Japan, and very lightly oxidized, thus retaining a bright green appearance.
Shui Xian Oolong (Narcissus) (Origin: Wu Yi Shan, Fujian Province, China, 2014)
This medium-roast oolong is categorized as a rock tea, or yancha. This rich, deep amber hued-brew has unexpected notes of cocoa and chocolate which give way to lustier notes of rich honey and fragrant narcissus (daffodil). Oolong teas are partially oxidized, falling in between black and green teas.
Gypsy Caravan, Bellocq blended tea (Organic Indian and Chinese black teas, rose, and organic chili)
A robust blend of organic Indian and Chinese black teas, Bulgarian rose, and chili gives way to a gentle, smoky finish. Full-bodied and smooth with a deep amber-hued liquor.
Darjeeling Second Flush (Origin: Sourenee Estate, Darjeeling, India)
A beautiful second Flush, FTGFOP1 from the Sourenee Estate, this organic second flush starts strong with notes of cocoa, maple, and a hint of muscatel, followed with a finish of roasted peanuts and tobacco. The term “second flush” denotes the harvest, which occurs from end of June through mid-July. Second Flush teas have a longer oxidization period which produces a full-bodied brew. FTGFTOP1 stands for ‘Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe exceptional’.
Golden Puerh (Origin: Yunnan Province, China)
This organic, cooked (shou) Puerh produces a strong yet smooth brew. Earthen musky notes predominate a rich, coffee-hued liquor. Puerh is an aged tea or “post-oxidized” tea. ”Shou Puerh is a “cooked” pure, and exposed to a rapid fermentation over 45-60 days to accelerate the aging process. They are intended for immediate consumption, as opposed to Sheng Puerh, which is intended to age.
Raclette, Savoie – a semi-firm cow’s milk cheese from the Savoie region. Most commonly used for melting. In French, racler, means to scrape which refers to the famous dish of the same name where the melted cheese is dolloped over potatoes and charcuterie.
Tasting Note: The semi-soft texture and milky notes of the Raclette round-out the tannins of the tea and reveal its woodsy notes and fruit aromas.
Brillat Savarin, Burgundy –Triple Crème Brie named after the famous gourmand (“Tell me what you eat and I’ll tell who you are”). Rich, creamy and luscious with an edible downy rind.
Tasting Note: The oceanic, grassy, buttery and herbaceous tones of the tea combine nicely with the saltiness and lactic flavors of the cheese. The contrasting texture of the creamy paste and chewy rind gives a sensation of rose petals on the palate.
Comté, PDO, Jura Mountains – Raw cow’s milk cheese from the Jura Mountains. The highest production of all French PDO cheeses: around 40,000 tons annually. The rind is usually a dusty-brown color, and the internal paste is a pale creamy yellow. The texture is relatively hard and flexible, and the taste is strong and slightly sweet. Each wheel weighs 88lbs and its producers (called fruitières) and affineurs, run separate businesses.
Tasting Note: The slightly roasted and floral aromas of the tea melded nicely with the supple texture of the cheese in mouth creating a meatiness with a clean finish.
Camembert, Normandy – Cow’s milk cheese from Normandy. A soft, creamy, bloomy rind cheese with lactic and mushroom flavors.
Tasting Note: The velvety notes of undergrowth and animal of the Gypsy Caravan tea paired nicely with the Camembert’s earthiness and caramelized notes of mushroom – creating a nice moment of refuge.
Bleu d’Auvergne, PDO, Auvergne – A creamy cow’s milk blue from France’s volcanic rich south-central area. It is a PDO with a strong and pungent taste, but to a lesser extent than other blue cheeses; it is less salted, with a creamier and more buttery taste and a moister texture.
Tasting Note: Harmonious pairing between the acidity of the cheese and floral notes of the slightly astringent Darjeeling. The hint of muscatel complements the pungency of the bleu.
Epoisses, PDO, Burgundy – Although this cow’s milk cheese has a strong aroma, its taste is perfectly well balanced and very savory on the palate. Originally made by Cistercian monks who passed the recipe on to local famers. During its four week maturation, it is washed with plain or salted water (brine) to which Marc de Bourgogne is gradually added. Its red-orange color is completely natural. Napoleon was a particular fan of the cheese.
Tasting Note: The Golden Puerh stands up to this pungent cheese. The creaminess blends subtly with the tannins revealing leather notes, wood and cocoa. The finale unveils a minty effect of the tea on the palate.
Tea and cheese, while vastly different, have many things in common. Both derive from a common base: for tea, it is the evergreen tree/shrub, Camellia sinensis. For cheese, it is milk, a starter culture, rennet and salt. From there, everything is possible and hundreds of varieties are produced contingent on natural factors, which contribute to the specificities of each. Both product’s success and failure are directly linked to natural phenomena. Both products need to be processed (oxidation/mold) and/or aged to attain their pinnacle.
Maturation and Fermentation
Puerh Tea is aged (post-oxidized) and may be pressed into shapes much as cheese is matured (affinage) and molded. Molds on cheese surfaced added or inoculated into the paste then allowed to flourish.
Puerh is a microbial fermented tea obtained through the action of molds, bacteria and yeasts on the harvested leaves of the tea plant. It is thus truly a fermented tea, whereas teas known in the west as black teas have only undergone oxidation through naturally occurring tea plant enzymes. Mislabeling the oxidation process as fermentation and thus naming black teas, such as Assam, Darjeeling or Keemun, as fermented teas has created endless confusion. Only tea, such as Puerh, that has undergone microbial processing can be called a fermented tea.
PDO (Protected Designation of Origin)
The region of origin of Dragonwell teas, for instance, is near Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang Province. Most Xi Hu Long Jing (Dragonwell) teas are grown on either Shi Feng “Lion’s Head Peak” or Meijawu. The finest Puerh tea grows in Yunnan Province in China. In cheese, the PDO specifications need to be exact for Protected Designation of Origin cheeses to carry their names. Specifications include the cow breed, its feed, the size and shape of the cheese and the minimum amount of affinage or maturation required.
The flavor of tea will be reflective of the season and terroir. For instance, in regard to Japanese tea production, the harvest season begins in the south, gradually moving north with the spring warmth. During the winter, tea plants store nutrients and the tender new leaves, which sprout in the spring, contain concentrated nutrients. Shincha (“new tea”) represents the first harvest and is eagerly anticipated each year, and can be expensive.
Hard mountain cheeses such as Comté, Beaufort, Gruyère and Abondance also differ in taste and aroma depending on the time of year. Summer Beaufort d’Alpage produced with milk from Tarine (or Tarentaise) cows that live in the mountains and graze exclusively on natural pastures contain inherent flavors. Connoisseurs can taste the grass and wildflowers of the mountainside when eating a piece of Beaufort. Summer cheeses have more flavor and a golden paste than those produced later in the year when the cows feed on hay.
The land where the Camellia sinensis grows, like the land where the cows feed, impart characteristics to the flavor and aromas of the final product. Soil, climate, altitude, and latitude have a profound and direct influence. Norman cows that produce milk to make Camembert feed on lush meadows drenched in salty dew from the English Channel. Tea grown and produced in the subtropical, volcanic soil of Kagoshima Prefecture, Japan generally hold more tropical notes and will be more herbaceous, assertive and bright than teas from more northerly gardens. In Sri Lanka, gardens growing spices or flowers impart their qualities to certain Ceylon teas. Likewise, cows’, feeding on Alpine mountainsides, milk lends its flavors to certain cheeses.
It is possible that drinking black tea may help you recover from stressful events more quickly. One study compared people who drank 4 cups of tea daily for 6 weeks with people who drank another beverage. The tea drinkers reported feeling calmer and had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after stressful situations. Herbal teas, such as tulsi (holy basil) which is an adaptogen, may also help the body reduce the effects of stress, allowing the body to function optimally at the times.
A common bedtime stress buster is the time-honored glass of warm milk. The vitamin B12 in cheese helps reduce stress too.
Other benefits include:
Here is what some studies have found about the potential health benefits of tea & cheese:
Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea’s antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain , reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
Black tea: Fully oxidized tea leaves. Polyphenols, an essential component in tea that may have health benefits according to the American Cancer Society including the prevention of certain diseases including cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes. In fresh tea leaves, the polyphenols are colorless and acrid, but during oxidation these enzymes are transformed into theaflavins and thearubigins, the two elements that give tea its color and astringency. Oxidation develops brown, red and black pigments and reduces the leaves’ astringency. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke.
White tea: Uncured and not oxidized. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas. High in antioxidants and white tea may promote cardiovascular health and enhance weight lose. Oregon State University found in one study that white tea consumption may protect again colon cancer.
Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science has not backed the claims.
Puerh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves and considered a black tea with its leaves pressed into cakes. In one study, animals given Puerh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol lowered blood sugar and prevented oxidation of cholesterol plaque.
Cheese is a great source of protein and calcium. Since protein, curbs hunger and keeps you feeling satisfied after meals and snacks, cheese can help you to lose weight.
As part of a well-rounded nutrition plan, the protein in cheese can slow down the absorption of carbohydrates eaten at the same meal or snack and therefore help balance your blood-sugar levels and improve mood as well.
The calcium in cheese can help keep your teeth and bones strong and guard against osteoporosis. In women, it can also offer some relief from PMS symptoms.
Cheese contains additional nutrients like zinc and biotin. Zinc has several functions in the body: It aids in tissue growth and repair, prevents and treats macular degeneration, protects your skin, and helps keep your nails strong. Both zinc and biotin are also important for hair health.
Cheese is a great source of energy.
Bacteria found in cheese add diversity to our intestinal flora for added digestion benefits.
Finally, aged cheese has very little lactose or can be lactose-free. The older the cheese the less lactose it contains. Lactose is in the whey not the curd. The whey drains during the cheeses’ drying process.
Bellocq Tea Atelier (www.bellocq.com) has turned six years of sourcing and blending the finest teas and botanicals into a devoted and articulate history of tea connoisseurship. Bellocq’s carefully selected, single-origin offerings originate from the finest estates in China, Japan, India, Nepal, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Malawi and are exclusively full leaf, almost entirely organic, and sourced from high elevation gardens.
True to its mission, Bellocq has expanded its original line of tea blends to include over 50 varieties of pure teas, an assortment of herbal selections, and a growing number of in-house blends. The pure teas range, at their very finest, from fragrant, delicate Anji Bai Cha to the earthy and robust 2007 Bulang Raw, Ancient Tree, a Puerh sourced from deep within Yunnan Province. Meanwhile, blends like “Le Hammeau” draw out the winsome, summery warmth of the more familiar lemon verbena, freshly torn mint, chamomile, lavender, and sage. Hardly content sourcing and blending the teas for an interested public, Bellocq also offers extensive help in properly brewing, storing, and pairing each of their teas, for full effect. Bellocq’s teas are nuanced, evocative, and surprising, and they are steeped in tradition that dates back millennia, often originating from families that have cultivated tea for generations. Tea has always been about ritual and the sense of well-being that accompanies it, and this luxury is what Bellocq strives to provide.
About the French Cheese Board
Financed by the French Dairy Board (CNIEL*) the French Cheese Board (www.frenchcheeseboard.com) is a studio devoted to all things French cheese. Conceived as an idea lab, it is a space for consumers & trade members to discover the diversity & richness that France has to offer through a series of interactive showings and events.
The new home of French Cheese in New York blends the culinary arts with contemporary art installations, meshing lifestyle, art, cheese & more. We put art & design at the forefront of modernity, development & innovation. We invite artists, designers, chefs & researchers to work together on projects related to French cheese & the nutrition of today & tomorrow. The French Cheese Board provides a platform for the exchange of ideas – for education & for the celebration of French cheese.
*Composed of the French dairy farmers and cheese firms, the French Dairy Inter-Branch Organization’s (CNIEL, http://www.maison-du-lait.com/en) mission is to create awareness about the variety of the cheeses of France available in the US market and the multiple ways that American consumers can incorporate the cheeses into their diets, their recipes and their lifestyles. Co-financed by the EU, the current marketing campaign “Cheeses of Europe, Make it Magnifique” (www.cheesesofeurope.com) is comprised of a website, TV & print ads, pop-up stores in select markets and in-store demos nationwide.