Not So Whiskey Wednesday: Pairing Tea & Cigars!

Welcome to another Not So Whiskey Wednesday. For the uninitiated, in this series I dive deep into many different types of non-alcoholic cigar pairings that you – the readers – can try on your own and comment about. Since I’ve been doing these articles, I’ve been asked more than a few times if I had thoughts on cigar pairing that didn’t involve alcohol. So, for my brothers and sisters of the leaf looking for something a little different, I hope you enjoy!

When we as Americans think about what beverages to pair with our cigars we tend to think about the obvious. We love our whiskey, wine, rum and coffee. There is one drink however that escapes many of us, one which the rest of the world loves to enjoy, and that’s tea. Whether it is black or green, hot or cold, tea as a pairing that can elevate cigars in ways that most of use have never experienced.

In this edition, we will talk about a few different styles of tea, what types of cigars they pair well with, and even give you a suggestion of what cigar to try with your tea. At the end of the article I’ll also leave you with a bonus tea and some interesting information on where you can find it. One rule to consider when thinking about finding a tea to pair with you cigars is that the more delicate the tea the lighter the cigar and the darker the tea the more full bodied the cigar. With that being said, that’s the way I will approach this article, lightest to darkest. So, sit back and relax, its time to talk… Tea!

One of the rarest types of tea, White Tea gets its name from the white fuzz that grows on the newly formed leaves. The fuzz helps to protect the young leaf from insects who like too much on them. White Tea is light in color, mild in flavor, with a soft sweet finish. The flavors can rage a bit from light and fruity while others are woody, floral, and sweet. Most are also less bitter than the black teas that you will drink. Due to its delicate nature, White Tea is normally served hot without the addition of cream and sugar. 

When looking for a cigar to pair with a white tea I would look for a good Connecticut. The soft flavors of both the tea and the cigar won’t over power each other and will make for a pleasant experience. I enjoyed a Drew Estate Undercrown Shade.

One of the least processed teas, Green Tea is made of unoxidized leaves and contains the most antioxidants of any tea and is said to help digestion, improve heart health and elevate mental awareness. More complex than White Tea, Green tea offers a smooth herbal note with hits of creamy butter and nuts. Depending on how its brewed it can either have a sweet or bitter finish. To keep it from being too bitter when cooking, it is aways best to let it simmer at a low heat rather than boiling it at high temperatures. 

Green teas go great with green cigars. By green I mean either a Claro or Candela-wrapped cigar. The herbal grassy notes in these cigars match well with the clean herbal notes of the tea. They also help to bring out a natural sweetness in each other. This a green tea I enjoyed the Southern Draw Rose of Sharon Desert Rose.

Oolong Tea is made from the same leaves as Green and Black tea. The difference is that Oolong leaves are fermented longer than green tea, but not as long as black tea. People drink Oolong tea to aid in mental alertness, manage blood pressure and many other reasons, but there is no reliable scientific evidence to support the other uses. Oolong tea is unique in that its flavors vary drastically. Some are light, sweet, and smokey while others are dark, rich, smokey and malty. One thing is for sure, if you are wanting pair an Oolong tea with a cigar, make sure that you sip the tea first and make sure what flavor profile that you are working with. For me, I went with the Alec Bradley Gatekeeper. This isn’t one of my favorite cigars,but it did pair well with the tea and allowed the spices of the tea to shine without overpower each other. The earth and nutty notes added to its complexity.

With white and green tea being made of the least oxidized leaves, the leaf in Black Tea is the exact opposite. It has some of the most oxidized leaves of any tea that you will drink. The level of oxidation that these tea leaves go through has a direct correlation to the complex flavors and strength that this tea presents. That’s what makes this tea the most popular tea in the western world. With dark, deep flavor notes of chocolate, raisins, malt, and fruit, black tea makes a great choice when wanting to pair a bold cigar with a tea. Bold and beautiful, the Crux Epicure Maduro is full of flavor and held its own with a strong black tea.

What do you get when you mix black tea and spices with a little cream and sugar? You get Chai Tea, one if the most complex and interesting teas that you can drink. Flavors can vary from one extreme to the other depending on the spices that are used but rest assured this tea can take your smoking experience to all new levels. One of the nicest things about this tea is its versatility. Darker ,richer cigars tend to pair well due to the black tea, while milder cigars also pair well because of the cream and sugar. I think the hardest part you will find with this pairing is what cigar goes best…. Because they all might.  

When pair a cigar with this tea i kept it in line with pairing a normal black tea. I wanted something that was bold in flavor and would match well with the cream and sugar in the tea. I chose the All Saints St. Francis.

Ready for your bonus tea? As someone who lives is the south, there’s nothing better on a hot summer day than an ice-cold glass of Sweet Tea. While some people want their tea so sweet that its basically sugar water, I tend to like mine with very little sugar. I want to be able to taste the tea more than I do the sugar.  The tea that we buy is an amazing tea that is grown here in the south. Every year my wife and I visit Charleston SC and while there we visit the Charleston Tea Garden to purchase enough tea to last us the year. It has become my family’s favorite tea.

Below, you will find out a little more about this place. When sipping on some sweet tea I tend to look for something with a little chocolate and a little pepper to balance out the herbal and sweet notes of the tea. Over the summer I really did enjoy the Los Statos Deluxe. Every time I had it with a tea or a low proof whiskey it matched very well with them.

Located on historic Wadmalaw Island, just miles from Charlestown South Carolina, The Charleston Tea Garden is the largest tea plantation in North America. The tea plants use here were established in 1888 on the Pinehurst Tea Plantation by Dr. Charles Shepard. His tea plant was so good that they won top honors at the 1904 Worlds Fair in St. Louis Missouri. After Shepard’s death, his plants were later rediscovered and transported to their current place on Wadmalaw Island there they became part of the Lipton Tea Company.

In 1987, tea taster William Hall purchased the land and began farming and harvesting the tea commercially. Now co-owned by hall and the Bigelow family of Bigelow Tea, The Charleston Tea Garden still produces some of the best tea on the market. They offer education and trolly tours of the property daily that is an amazing experience and one that I visit every year.

As always, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to read this. This one was a first for me. I’ve never really sat down with hot tea and a cigar. I will say that it won’t be the last time. I really enjoyed this. If you have any experience with pairing tea and cigars, leave me your thoughts in the comments. If you haven’t tried this pairing, let me know as well. I love good conversation and being able to hear about what you enjoy or what you didn’t.

Until the next Whiskey (or not so whiskey) Wednesday, if you’re going to enjoy a little smoke & oak just remember, “Life’s too short, enjoy the good stuff”…. and do it responsibly!