If you’re looking for a quintessentially-British smoking experience, then it doesn’t get better than matching up a smoking pipe with a classic cup of tea.
While most pairing guides relating to smoking will typically focus more on whisky and cigars, we cannot forget about our beloved pipe tobacco, which offers just as many complex flavour and aroma options.
The characteristics within the tobacco offer up many pairing opportunities, and today we will focus on how to pair pipe tobacco with tea!
Why Tobacco and Tea?
When you think about it, there are a lot of similarities in the pipe smoking and tea brewing rituals.
For both, the pipe and cup are filled with dried and shredded leaves – tobacco leaf and tea leaves, respectively. This is then heated, by flame or by hot water, allowing the flavour and aroma of the resulting smoke or brew to be enjoyed.
Pairing Tea and Pipe Tobacco
There are several different types of tea that you can enjoy, including black tea, green tea and oolong tea. To find the best pairings, we will explore each key type and the kinds of tobacco that will work best with them.
How is Tea Made?
Before exploring pairings, it is important to understand how tea is made, as this has an impact on the flavour, and thus affects the kind of tobacco pairing it would suit.
Generally speaking, tea is grown and harvested before the processes of withering, rolling, oxidising and firing. Oxidising is the process of allowing oxygen to contact the tea – some teas will be made using oxidation, whereas others will skip this step and use sun-drying or steaming techniques instead.
Black tea is the most common type of tea in the Western world – your English Breakfast tea and Earl Grey will be made using blends of black tea.
Black tea is made using a process that puts a focus on the oxidation of the tea leaves. This creates a stronger flavour for the tea.
Black tea can be drunk on its own, but in the UK, it is typically enjoyed with milk, and potentially a spoonful of sugar!
Pairing Black Tea with Pipe Tobacco
If you like your tea sweet and milky, then you should opt for an English blend of tobacco, as this will pair excellently.
However, if you want to try black tea without milk, then a darker Virginia tobacco will work wonderfully.
If your favourite sip is an Earl Grey, then a tobacco that offers citrus notes will be the perfect pairing.
Less common than black tea, white tea is an unprocessed form of tea that offers up a sweet flavour and a pale yellow-green colour when brewed.
Pairing White Tea with Pipe Tobacco
White tea is fairly delicate, so you’ll want a milder tobacco to go alongside this.
Green tea is created by processing tea without the oxidising stage. This leaves a complex flavour with herbal notes.
Pairing Green Tea with Pipe Tobacco
Green tea would pair best with a bold Virginia tobacco, which offers a smooth smoke that would complement the thinner texture and bolder flavour of a green tea.
Oolong tea can offer a range of complex flavours, from floral to smoky, fruity to creamy. Oolong can also often present slightly bitter notes.
Pairing Oolong with Pipe Tobacco
Because oolong tea has complexity and bitter hints, it can withstand being matched up with a stronger tobacco blend. Try a matured Virginia for a rich and dark smoking and drinking experience!
Rooibos is different from all of the above-named teas due to the fact that it originates from a completely different tea plant. While black, white, green and oolong tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant, rooibos actually comes from the South African plant Aspalathus Linearis.
This produces a red tea that is high in antioxidants but free from caffeine.
Pairing Rooibos with Pipe Tobacco
To match the clean taste of rooibos, you’ll want to pick an aromatic tobacco.
If you’re more into cigars than pipes, but still love your tea, then check out our guide to pairing tea and cigars instead.