Mariella Erkens won the Dutch Tea Sommelier Championships in 2013 and 2014. She gives workshops, inspiration sessions and advise on food pairing with tea. We spoke with her about being a tea sommelier.
What is a tea sommelier?
A tea sommelier is actually the same as a wine sommelier, so someone who advises pairing food with tea.
How does a tea sommelier work?
First you have to know if you start with the tea or the dish. If you start from the court, you will consult with the chef about the court. You then make a shortlist of teas and taste them with the dish. Then you can do two things: either you adjust the recipe of the dish if the pairing is not yet optimal, or you adjust the recipe of the tea.
How do you select the tea with a dish?
I have a library of a lot of teas. Not all teas in the world, because that will take more time than I still have in life. It contains notes about aroma and other characteristics of the tea. And when I taste a dish, I look for the right tea. Of course I still taste it to see if the dish and the tea match.
Do you have a good example of a food pairing?
Our white asparagus is great with the darjeeling first flush.