Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tea & Moon-cake Pairing

Last Saturday I joined a Tea & Moon-cake Pairing class run by MingCha. We were introduced 4 types of tea, or I should say 5 if I include the jasmine tea Vivian Mak, MingCha director and our instructor, offered us before the beginning of the lesson as a “palate cleanser”.

We first started with a beautiful demonstration of a jasmine blossom slowly unfurling in hot water making a lovely “Jasmine Tea Martini”.
Jasmine blossoms are made with dried flowers wrapped in tea leaf buds scented with jasmine flowers.

Jasmine Tea Martini
Vivian encouraged us to taste dried tea leaves on their own as well as with bits of moon-cakes and a sip of hot tea. Very interesting!
 Some teas are made with the leaves (large or small/tender) some with only the buds and others with both leaves and buds.

We tasted the 4 following teas:

1- Wuyi Dark Rock (武夷正岩水仙 móuh-jíh jing-ngàahm-séui-sîn)
Oolong tea (wû-lùhng-cháah 烏龍茶) from Wuyi (武夷) (in Fujian province). Oolong is a semi-fermented tea. Its leaves are black and elongated. Its aroma is smoky and powerful. It is said to be good for digestion and enhancing blood circulation.
We tried it with Jinhua ham (金華火腿 gâm-waah fó-téui) moon-cake (yuht-bíng 月餅.) It was the first time I tasted this kind of moon-cake. The filling is actually less stodgy than lotus paste. Although I would not eat the whole piece I enjoyed having a few thin slices while sipping Wuyi Dark Rock.

Moon-cake with crust embossed with 4 characters

Moon-cake filled with 5 kinds of nuts and Jinhua ham

2- Tanyang Golden Rim (壇洋工夫紅 tàahn-yèuhng gûng-fû hùhng)
{gûng-fû = laborious; hùhng = red}
Red tea from Fujian province. Full fermentation. Hand-picked. Its sweet and fruity aroma reminds me of the Hong Kong-style milk tea.  Its leaves are crispy (quite good). I think we could sprinkle some leaves on ice creams or frozen yogurts (provided that we know how the tea has been stored!) I like its beautiful golden-orange colour.

Beautiful bright golden rim

Vivian offered us some traditional moon-cakes with lotus paste and two egg yolks to pair with Tanyang Golden Rim. This tea goes definitely well with sweet treats.

3- Yunnan Tippy Puer (陳年金尖普洱chàhn-nìhn gâm-jîm póu-léi)
{chàhn-nìhn = old/stored for many years; gâm-jîm = gold point}
From Yunnan (雲南) province. It belongs to the black tea family. The small leaves are dark and don’t taste so good. I started to appreciate the flavour of the tea after the 3nd brew. This tea does not get bitter even infused for a long time (unlike standard teas served in some restaurants).

Tips (from Vivian):
Puer tea leaves need a quick rinse and the boiled water needs to be thrown away immediately. (Other teas are sometimes rinsed too). Rinsing helps to remove any dust and most of all activate the leaves (they will open up easily). Don’t let the water stand otherwise the leaves will start to release their aroma and it will be wasted.
Later, when filling the tea pot with water, remember to pour it as quickly as possible so as to keep the same water temperature (without any swirling).

We tasted it both with Jinhua ham and lotus paste moon-cakes. Not bad!

Dark small leaves

Puer’s 3rd brew

4- Teguanyin Classic (古方鐵觀音gú-fông tit-gûn-yâm)
This Oolong tea is from Anxi County in Fujian province. It has been baked for 30 hours. I did not like the strong roasted taste of the dried leaves.
We paired the tea with snowy moon-cakes filled with fancy fillings. Those are not my favourite among the moon-cakes I have tried so far but I agree that their sweet and soft texture go well with the “gâm” or sweet aftertaste* of Teguanyin.

* I found it hard to describe tea in words – besides woody, smoky and another Cantonese word “gâm which means {I think, correct me if I am wrong} that it has a liquorice root aftertaste.

I like the way Vivian tries to explain teas’ characteristics in simple words making tea-drinking accessible to everyone. There is no jargon and the rules are simple, as long as it makes sense and we enjoy it.  Furthermore, tasting tea with food is not only fun but practical.  

It has been a wonderful experience and I was happily surprised by the form of the event which is totally different than common formal tea courses or “tea ceremony” sessions I heard about. I will definitely try to join forthcoming MingCha events especially after hearing Vivian suggesting pairing tea with cheese!


  1. Oh what a coincidence, I joined a tea class by MingCha x Teakha last month! It's a great experience. They tried to organize a mooncake and tea pairing class tonight (guess it's similar to the class you joined but Teakha's homemade mooncake would be served!)but it was cancelled due to insufficient participants. What a pity... probably because many people have left HK for holiday!

    Btw, cheese and tea pairing sounds really fun! ;)

    1. thanks for dropping these few lines. Sad to learn that Teakha's last evening tea pairing had to be cancelled.

      ...maybe we'll meet at a tea pairing event soon -:)