Dim Sum Tea Guide
What tea do you want?
This is what you usually hear next when you sit down for a dim sum meal. Dim sum always go with Yum Cha, or the tradition of tea drinking. And it is a heavenly pair that not only goes well on the palate, but good for our health as well.
However, if you are a novice at dim sum and tea pairing, it can get intimidating. But let me get you into some basics that will also give you the right combination for a gastronomically satisfying experience.
It is true that you can always choose whatever tea you want just as long as it is offered by the restaurant. But there is something better about bringing two flavours that complement each other. There may be a multitude of teas out there but if you just nail these basics, you are in for a treat for every dim sum run you plan to have in the future.
Dim Sum Teas
Traditionally, this is the tea of choice for dim sum. Not to bust your bubble, but most dim sum dishes has some amount of lard in them. Pu-erh can help you cut through the grease while leaving you with a clean feel after drinking. It is even said to aid your digestion, improve blood circulation and lowers your cholesterol levels. It gives a strong and earthy flavour which can be quite overpowering for first timers. To tone down the bitter taste Chrysanthemum flowers can be added because the floral notes balance the tea’s harsh flavours.
When eating in dim sum restaurants you might want to go for its Cantonese name, which is “Po Lei” or “Bo-Lay”when you order. Remember, good pu-erh tea should not taste dirty, ‘pondy’ or ‘fishy.’ Many find this to be an interesting drink and even consider it to be one of the very few true black tea. It is also considered the wine of teas because it gets better with age. If it also remains in the pot for long, the tea becomes darker and stronger tasting. The mustiness is a result of the fermentation process that the leaves undergo, so you might want to add more hot water to water it down.
Also referred to as Gook-Fa in Cantonese, this type of tea is the opposite of the dark and earthy Pu-erh. Composed of dried flower blossoms this tea gives off a light and sweet taste with a light yellow color that is reminiscent of chamomile tea.
This can be a perfect choice for seafood-based dishes, steamed dumplings and even light desserts. Its gentle fragrance gives just the right compliment without being too overwhelming, and it is also for people who prefer to go caffeine-free. This is normally taken with rock sugar served separately.
This is also known as Wu-long or blue tea, and this is dubbed to be a well-rounded tea for dim sum. Oolong tea is considered as the middle ground between black and green tea, which is why it is also called blue tea. It goes through a shorter fermentation process than black tea creating a combination of darkness and depth. Having undergone pan frying after the leaves have been dried results in this tea being semi-fermented.
Many prefer this tea because of its rich flavor and pleasant aftertaste making it a perfect choice for first-timers. It also balances the taste of salty and spicy dishes meat dishes. Oolong also accentuates baked dim sum and stuffed buns beautifully because of its mild taste.
This is also known as Lung-Jeng or Lung-Ching in Cantonese. Dragonwell is also a favourable light green tea for most dim sum aficionados because of its grassy, fresh and vegetal taste. Some say it tastes like baby bok choy, while others describe it to have a light body with a chestnut aroma. This distinct taste is a result after being soaked from a special well prior to fermentation. The leaves are pan-fried immediately after picking to stop the oxidation process. This also explains the tea’s green color.
Due to its clean taste, Dragonwell cuts through the greasiness of some dim sum dishes making it a perfect cleanser for the palette. This allows you to savour the taste of each dim sum dish without having one affect the other.
This is a mild tasting tea with a hint of floral notes. It is a light green tea with a subtle flavour with the sweet scent of jasmine. This is actually made from green or Pouchong tea leaves that are scented with jasmine flowers. It is the sweet and soothing fragrance that makes every cup a treat.
Jasmine tea is a common tea offered in most dim sum places. It also serves as a perfect appetizer before your feast on your foray of dim sum dishes.
On top of its flavour and scent, this type of tea also possess a range of benefits such as lowering cholesterol and the risk of diabetes. It is also helps you strengthen your immune system. So it does not only provides excellent taste, but it also gives you a range of health benefits.
Another famous choice is Sau mei also known as longevity eyebrow. It is a white tea grown in the Guanxi or Fujian province, however it isn’t really colorless but rather it takes on a pale yellow color. This tea is sweet with a slightly bitter taste of fresh tea leaves. Many find this to be a favorable variation if you opt out of the traditional choices. This type of tea has the perfect blend of sweetness and fragrance, balanced with just a hint of boldness to its flavour. Since it goes through minimal processing, this tea retains most of its natural antioxidants. This is also the reason why it has a lighter taste and color, and it is also has lesser caffeine than the others.
These types of tea are just the basics because there is a number of options available for you depending on your preference. There is no exact science to choosing tea for your dim sum, but knowing the basics will certainly help you create a good pair and a truly satisfying taste at that.
If you want to get your fill of good dim sum in Singapore, you can come to Tak Po. We have a wide selection of good choices that shows you authentic Chinese cuisine that is truly hand made. Call us today and make your reservations.
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