Unlocking the Elusive Third Flavor: The Magic of a Tea Sommelier


Tea and Cheese Pairings at Happy Lucky’s takes on the newest foodie trend

Fort Collins is known for having quite the foodie scene, but not the kind that boasts three Michelin stars. In New York City, a fine dining establishment called Eleven Madison Park serves all inclusive dinners for $295 dollars per guest and even made #1 in The World’s Top 50. It might surprise you that Happy Lucky’s Teahouse shares something in common with this high-end establishment — tea and food pairing.

Tea sommeliers are a rising trend in the foodie world. Western culinary innovators are taking traditional eastern teas and strategically pairing them with food to create an invigorating new experience. Similar to wine sommeliers, tea sommeliers need to have a deep understanding of the subtle nuances of tea. The tea industry has a strict certification process in the works that is similar to the wine industry standards.  Much like a wine sommelier, a tea sommelier must refine their palate and have a well-rounded understanding of the history and region the tea is from. At Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, our staff develops these skills. Leafster Olivia Marks has been collaborating on a perfect tea and cheese pairing with our neighbors at the Welsh Rabbit Cheese Bistro, experimenting with different tea and cheese combinations to find the perfect match. It doesn’t always work out but Olivia says that’s part of the fun because when they do go together:

“…it’s like magic,” according to Kari Grossman, co-owner of Happy Lucky’s.

Would you expect a traditional Japanese green tea like Kukicha or “twig tea,” followed by a bite of Prima Donna (a gouda parmesan hybrid cheese) to melt into a savory flavor reminiscent of Indian food? Probably not. But somehow, mixing and matching teas and cheese reveals a whole new flavor profile.

“It’s like this elusive third flavor. Almost like you’re eating a really nice meal,” Olivia said as she mulled over the kukicha and parmesan flavors melting in her mouth.

Screen Shot 2017-05-11 at 1.34.21 PMAn aspiring tea sommelier should be open to learning as much as they can about the slight variations in tea flavor profiles. To assist them, The International Tea Masters Association created a wheel of flavor descriptors to help define what they are tasting. This gives tea connoisseurs a robust set of adjectives to describe teas beyond ‘earthy’ or ‘floral’. Something that has a ‘nutty’ taste might be narrowed down to a ‘toasted’ flavor. This specificity helps aspiring tea sommeliers dive into the ways these flavors will interact with different foods. If done right, the perfect tea and food pairing brings out a whole new flavor.

With any blossoming new trend, much of the knowledge comes from experimenting. Some combinations are a total bust, but that will not stop tea sommeliers from sipping for the perfect combination. At Happy Lucky’s Teahouse, we provide the perfect introduction to the newest trend.

The Welsh Rabbit prepares a plate with two complementary cheeses and Happy Lucky’s pairs them with two different teas.These plates are prepared twice a week, so you have to get them while you can. Here are some of our past and present pairings:

Watch Olivia and Kari’s tea and cheese pairing by visiting our Facebook page


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