Tea is one of our favorite things to pair with mochi; there are a wide variety of flavors available and each adds a different layer to the way mochi is enjoyed. The taste of tea varies depending on the level of oxidation, recipe composition, cultivation, terroir, treating process, and many more factors, so it can be daunting for a new tea drinker. But we’ve got you covered; here is a crash course to the main types of teas, their characteristics, and even some of our favorite mochi pairings.
Let’s start with the basics— green tea. Green tea is steamed or fried right after harvest, halting the oxidation process and preserving the fresh vegetal taste of the tea leaves. It’s most popular and prevalent in East Asia, particularly China and Japan. A general rule of thumb is that less oxidation means more acids, fewer tannins, and less caffeine. The opposite is true as well, more oxidation leads to more of these attributes, as well as a darker color both of the leaf and beverage. Keep this in mind as oxidation level is mentioned throughout the rest of this guide.
Take advantage of green tea’s bright, acidic qualities by pairing with Passion Fruit.
Black tea is famous for its dark color and tannic taste. It’s grown throughout China and South Asia. It’s crushed after harvest, then allowed to fully oxidize. Many varieties are distinguished by the degree to which the leaves have been crushed, this is the difference between Irish Breakfast and English Breakfast teas, for example. Or, sometimes herbal components (don’t worry, we’ll get to herbal teas) are added. Earl Grey consists of black tea with herbal bergamot rinds or essence.
Black tea is dry and astringent, if you want to double down on tannins, go with a Black Sesame pairing.
Likewise, if you want to dial back the tannins a bit, then sweet Salted Caramel mochi is what you're looking for.
Think of oolong tea as everything in-between green tea and black tea. It’s flavors are complex and wide ranging, running the gamut from fresh and vegetal, to intensely dark and heavily roasted. There are so many pairing possibilities with this tea variety, so why not try a couple different tea and mochi combinations. Here’s what we recommend:
Most know the Darjeeling region for its famous black teas, but here’s a secret: it has a history of producing, woodsy, rich oolong teas too. Pair a dark Darjeeling oolong with Chocolate Mochi
for an experience of richness and decadence.
On the other end of the spectrum is high mountain oolong, from Taiwan, beautifully floral and fruity, you’ll want to pair this with Mango to let the fresh bite of both compliment each other.
We’ve already discussed how green tea is the product of halting the oxidation process right as it begins. But what if there was a way to prevent the process from even starting? This is a question Song Dynasty Chinese tea-masters sought to answer. When they finally developed a process, it was so intensive and time consuming that only one man could afford it— the emperor himself. It became treasured for its incredibly graceful and “floaty” taste. Today, due to centuries of refinement, it’s possible for anyone to try this one impossible delicacy.
The essence of white tea is its delicacy, its silkiness, so it’s best not to pair it with anything too strong in flavor. We’d recommend Strawberry or Lychee mochi.
While commonly associated with Japan, matcha actually has its origins in China. When Buddhist Chinese monks began to proselytize in Japan— the early 12th century— they brought matcha with them. It eventually became a symbol and ritual of the Japanese nobility. What sets it apart from other teas is that matcha is a fine powder, created from stone-ground green tea leaves. Before harvest, large canopies are erected over the plants. The shade is actually what gives matcha its signature umami taste.
A timeless and traditional Japanese pairing is freshly brewed matcha with Red Bean and Ube mochi.
Herbal tea isn’t technically tea, as it isn’t made from the Camellia Sinensis plant like every other variety we discussed today. In fact, herbal teas can be made from just about anything— from cinnamon to hibiscus. (Available in our Soho shop) One general rule though, is that herbal tea is typically caffeine free, so you’ll have to get your fix somewhere else. The sky's the limit when it comes to herbal teas, so here are two suggestions:
Chamomile tea is purported to induce sleep, so pair it with something classic and relaxing— Milk & Cereal Mochi.
Hibiscus tea is bold and bright— pair with Coconut mochi for a contrasting tasting flight.