Tea and wine tastings share similarities

When Tea Time in Cayman, the purveyor of premium loose leaf teas, partnered with Premier Wines & Spirits for an afternoon tea and wine tasting in the garden courtyard at Grand Pavilion on 12 January, it seemed like an odd pairing. However, the pairing was not as odd as it might sound.   


At first blush, attending a tea and wine pairing might seem strange. The two beverages are vastly different, starting with the fact that one is alcoholic and the other is not. 

Taking away the alcohol aspect and looking at how each are tasted, Tea Time in Cayman’s co-owner Kelli Dawson said the two beverages have a lot in common. 

“There are actually a lot of similarities between tea tastings and wine tastings,” she said. 

Depending on the type, both wine and tea can be served at different temperatures – wine ideally ranging from cellar temperature to chilled, and tea ranging from iced to very hot. 

In addition, tea and wine are the best known sources of tannin, that slightly bitter and astringent flavour that is essential in giving red wine balance.  

Both tea and wine can also be paired with food insomuch as some foods will actually make the beverage taste better and vice versa. 

Although identifying flavours and aromas in tea is generally easier than identifying them in wine, blended teas can have the same kind of taste and aroma complexities as wine. For example, both can have short or long finishes; both can smell differently as temperature changes; and both can have flavours that are more prominent at different points in the mouth. 


Tea knowledge  

Throughout the event, Dawson and Tea Time in Cayman’s other co-owner, Kadi Merren,imparted some of their knowledge about their teas. 

Some of the tidbits of tea information they shared included the fact that white tea has more antioxidants than other teas; that green tea speeds up a person’s metabolism and lowers their cholesterol; that chamomile tea helps relieve stress and insomnia; and that oolong tea is processed more than white tea, so it has fewer antioxidants. 

They also noted that although some teas are meant to be steeped in boiling water, other teas are supposed to steep in hot water that has a temperature less than boiling.  

The tastings 

Premier Wines & Spirits sommelier Sam Smallman spoke about the wines, including the first one, Mionetto Prosecco. 

“Prosecco has sort of taken over for Champagne, partially because of the price point but also because of how fresh and easy-going it is,” Smallman said.  

Like others, the sommelier was sceptical about the event’s concept at first. 

“I have never paired teas with wine before; I never even thought of it,” he said, adding that he was impressed with the way the pairings worked.  

The tasting involved six wines paired with six teas and six nibbles provided by Bay Market. The first one tasted with the Prosecco was an iced tea called Ginger Peach, which is made with certified organic white tea. 

The Ginger Peach was light and fruity with the flavour of peaches and honey and was very refreshing cold, making it a good pairing with the Italian Prosecco. 

Other pairings included: Go Green, a 100 per cent organic green tea, was paired with Maycas del Limari Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from Chile; Nap Time, made from 100 per cent whole chamomile flowers to maximise flavour, was paired with Redtree Moscato, a slightly sweet and effervescent white wine from California. Both the tea and wine had very floral aromas and flavours, making that pairing very good. 

The one tea and red wine pairing featured the English Breakfast tea called A Royal Affair, a 100 per cent organic black tea, with Cono Sur’s blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Here was a pairing where the tannins of the tea complemented the soft tannins of the wine.  

One tea and wine pairing didn’t work as well, showing that while some tea and wine pairings can bring out the best in each beverage, some can hinder the taste.  

Skinny Lemongrass tea – which is one of Tea Time in Cayman’s best selling teas – didn’t pair well with Spy Valley Gewürztraminer from New Zealand because it contains, in addition to oolong tea, lemon grass and the pure essential oil of bergamot. As a result, the tea left a bit of an oily coating in the mouth and really begged for a white wine with high acidity. But Gewürztraminer, even though it had a lemony flavour that complemented the tea, is a low-acid wine that has an oily mouth feel itself. The combination of the wine and tea tended to mute the flavours of both beverages. 

The pairing that was probably the best of the day featured an iced blended tea called ‘Tea Par-tay’ with Cono Sur Sparkling Rosé. Both beverages had slightly sweet and flowery notes along with flavours of raspberries. The nibble provided by Bay Market – cheese cake with a small dollop of raspberry preserves – also paired well with both the wine and the tea, allowing the three elements to come together like instruments in an orchestra. 


Prizes and purchases  

The event also featured a door prize and a raffle that benefitted the Cayman Heart Fund.  

In between tastings, guests enjoyed the delightful, breezy day while listening to soft music.  

Merren and Dawson answered guests’ questions and then invited them to the lobby, where both Tea Time in Cayman and Premier Wines offered the teas and wines tasted for sale, along with a variety of tea-drinking and wine-drinking accessories.  

Tea Time in Cayman’s unique tea party events continue on 9 February with an event done in partnership with Island Naturals called ‘Makeover from Inside Out’. Here guests will learn about the benefits tea has for their skin and enjoy a makeover demo compliments of Island Naturals.