Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This with That: Dessert with Tea, Part II

ALTHOUGH pumpkin pies are (by most beginning baker's standards) fairly simple, I would venture to say that most people are puzzled about what libation to pair pumpkin pie with. Liquor or coffee are good bets, but if you're not looking to get soused, a slice of pumpkin pie with a cup of pu-erh tea is the next best thing.

As with all pairings in the Dessert with Tea series, a brief background about the tea is necessary to appreciate the match. Unlike other teas which gradually lose their flavor, pu-erh can be aged for as long or as short as the drinker desires. It can be purchased either raw or ripened. Pu-erh has active bacteria that interact with the leaves and affect the taste of the tea (similar to the beneficial probiotics from fermentation found in yogurt or kefir). Technically pu-erh is considered a green tea, but the ripened pu-erh leaves and tea it produces are dark red/brown and therefore have sometimes been mistakenly classified as black tea. All of the semantics are silly to me, so let's not get bogged down by it. :) If you're at all interested in the production of wine, you may enjoy learning about how pu-erh is made... so feel free to check that out if it moves you.

left: pu-erh, right: pumpkin pie from blissfulbite.wordpress.com

Pu-erh drinkers agree on one thing though--it's not for everyone. It is rich, earthy, and very strong. Earthiness aside, it is similar to coffee. The dark, roasted elements of pu-erh pair so well with the nutmeg and cinnamon flavors in the pumpkin pie. Like most good relationships, when put together, the contrast brings out the best in each.