May 30, 2018

Tea Pairing 101: Black Tea and Finger Sandwiches

Do you know the origins of afternoon tea? The most popular story involves the Duchess of Bedford, aka Anna Maria Russell. One day, the Duchess was so hungry in the seven-plus hours between lunch and dinner that she ordered a chamber service of tea and snacks. She fell in love with her idea and subsequently invited her friends to join her. I mention this story for two reasons. The first reason is that black tea is the most popular tea paired with afternoon tea and we paired our tea sandwiches with black tea. The second reason is that our pairing was set in Jee's apartment almost recreating Duchess of Bedford's afternoon tea ritual in her private chambers with friends. We only had the crustless finger sandwiches and not the scones and sweets.

A quick refresher on Tea Pairing 101: it's a fun and nerdy collaboration between me, Jee of Oh, How Civilized, and Sara of Tea Happiness. This is the fourth edition of Tea Pairing 101. Read my take on our White Tea, Green Tea, and Oolong Tea pairings. Each post has links to Sara's and Jee's points of view.


Jee hosted us in her Greenwich Village apartment with a south-facing, courtyard view. Now I know the source of the fantastic light in her photographs!


Our black tea selection included a Lapsang Souchong, a Nepalese black tea, and a Darjeeling.

Although we were not comparing the teas to each other we did use professional tasting cups. Three grams of each tea was steeped for three minutes using temperature prescribed by the tea company. The Lapsang Souchong was infused in 195F water, the Second Flush Himalayan Supreme in 200F, and the Darjeeling in 212F. (Harney & Sons listed 212F for black teas on its tin.) We took notes on th dry and infused leaves and the liquor.

Lapsang Souchong
  • Dry leaf: long, dark, slightly twisted; malt and fruit scents
  • Infused leaves: chocolate brown and dark green in color; mostly whole leaves; cocoa and fruit scents
  • Liquor: amber color; smooth, creamy, liquid chocolate; lingering flavors that stick to the top of the palate

Second Flush Himalayan Supreme
  • Dry leaf: beautiful, multi-colored leaves of dark and chocolate brown and lots of silver and gray-green buds
  • Infused leaves: the uniformly copper colored leaves smelled like a Darjeeling
  • Liquor: orange amber color; thick body with a hairy texture, stone fruit, muscatel, astringent tail note

Turzum Second Flush Darjeeling
  • Dry leaf: chopped, black and dark and chocolate brown leaves; chocolate and fruit scents
  • Infused leaves: slightly floral scent
  • Liquor: copper liquor was bitter but with a tail note of red fruit; the cooled liquor was more enjoyable


We sourced our finger sandwiches from Bosie Tea Parlor. From their Tea Sandwich Platter menu, we selected three vegetarian and one meat sandwich.
  • Farmer's Egg Salad - flavored with thyme and served on whole wheat
  • Cucumber - cream cheese and dill on white bread
  • Chicken Breast - chicken salad with raisin and curried mayonnaise on multigrain
  • Cheddar Cheese - Branson pickle on whole wheat


We paired each tea with three of the four sandwiches. I am a vegetarian so did not eat the chicken. Jee and Sara ate all but the cucumber sandwich.

Lapsang Souchong + Sandwiches

Farmer's Egg Salad: a rich and herbaceous sandwich; the tea rounded out the thyme
Cucumber: the thinly sliced cucumbers were fresh and crisp; the tea brought out the bitterness of the cucumber skin
Cheddar Cheese: a delicious sandwich on its own; the tea brought out the nuttiness of the cheddar

Second Flush Himalayan Supreme + Tea Sandwiches

Farmer's Egg Salad: the creaminess of the sandwich cut the astringency of this tea
Cucumber: this tea also brought out the bitterness in the cucumber skin
Cheddar Cheese: the tea brought out the fruit notes in the pickle and the nuttiness in the cheese

Turzum Second Flush Darjeeling + Tea Sandwiches

Farmer's Egg Salad: the flavors of this sandwich were lost with this tea
Cucumber: the cream cheese mellowed the bitter quality of this tea
Cheddar Cheese: the cooled liquor with more noticeable fruit notes complemented the fruity notes in the pickle


I'll tell you my favorite tea, sandwich, then my favorite pairing.

Favorite Tea

I have always liked Joseph Wesley's Lapsang Souchong. It was my favorite of the black teas we served. I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed the Second Flush Himalayan Supreme from Happy Earth Tea. Recently I've had the pleasure of drinking 2017 Summer Himalayan Shiiba and 2017 Autumn Himalayan Orange both from the Jun Chiyabari Tea Garden. I had a second session with the Turzum Second Flush Darjeeling using 195F. This tea improved at a lower temperature. Please don't use boiling water with your second flush Darjeeling.

Favorite Sandwich

My favorite sandwich was the Cheddar Cheese with the Farmer's Egg Salad a very close second. I recommend this egg salad sandwich to egg salad sandwich loves out there.

Favorite Black Tea + Sandwich

Last but not least, my best in pairing: Lapsang Souchong + Cheddar Cheese. The very close second, as you may have guessed, includes the Farmer's Egg Salad paired with the Second Flush Himalayan Supreme.

Thank you to the tea companies who provided us with black teas for this pairing: Joseph Wesley TeaHappy Earth Tea, and Harney & Sons. As always, thank you to my tea buds Jee and Sara. Read their black tea pairing notes at Oh, How Civilized and Tea Happiness.

P.S. I am a tea student at the International Tea Education Institute. Use NOTESONTEA10 when you register for any course.

1 comment :

  1. Thank you, I have often wondered about pairing tea with certain kinds of flavours. But I have really only seen people pair tea with sweets like cake or chocolate.


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