I have written before about tea entrepreneur Kyle Whittington’s tea and noodle tasting events, which at £15 are some of the best-value evenings in London. Kyle, who runs an online one-stop-shop for lovers of the leaf, has just started a new tasting concept where participants sample a range of teas alongside paired cheeses.
Obviously, cheese is not the first thing one automatically reaches for when they put the kettle on. Normally it’s, you know, some sort of cake, or a chocolate hobnob. I’m confident that nobody ever has taken a swig of their favourite Darjeeling and thought, ‘Christ! You know what would really pep this up? Gouda.’ But they might, now that Kyle (and his cheesy sidekick, Robbyn) are spreading the word. Albeit very slowly, because their monthly workshops at Robbyn’s tiny Greenwich fromagerie, The Cheese Board, are limited to only a handful of cheddar-hounds at a time.
“Get that cheese in your mouth, and get it all over your tongue,” said Robbyn, after a five-minute introduction that, although interesting, seems like forever when you have a platter of sexy little cheeses just sitting there, teasing you with their crumbly crumbliness and creamy creaminess and thick, bulging veins of delicious blue tang. I love cheese – always have – especially Danish blues and strong cheddars melted all over salt-encrusted jacket potatoes, but I’ve never before taken the time to really taste them. It’s sort of like wine, or chocolate; you don’t notice the subtleties until you properly explore the flavours – usually under the instruction of someone with a much more sophisticated palate.
It’s amazing, really, what they can do with a bit of off-milk and mould.
And of course the tea was wonderful too, all of which had been hand-rolled between the thighs of a virgin in some far-flung and exotic location, possibly with elephants. (I jest, of course. But seriously, the effort that goes into making some of these teas is really quite unbelievable. Until you taste it, that is, and then it all makes sense.)
To be fair, it wasn’t like we were washing down big hunks of Cathedral City with P.G.Tips. We tried Oolongs, a Long Jing, a Sri Lankan Ceylon that was so refreshingly delicious I bought some to take home with me…in total we tried six teas, each paired with a different cheese – a gooey, mellow Brillat Saverin, a goaty Gouda, a dirty, deep blue Fourme D’Ambert, a Tellegio, a slice of an ash-rolled log of goat’s cheese and a 10 month Comte (“check your supermarket Comte,” said Robbyn, in scandalised tones, “and they’ll never have an age on them like this. They age them artificially in just a few weeks.” We checked Sainsbury’s the next day; she was right.)
As for the pairing aspect, it was interesting how the tea affected the taste of the cheese. It acted as both a flavour enhancer and a palate cleanser, often clearing out the cheese’s texture from the tongue and leaving the strong flavours behind. It was bizarre, I think, but beautiful.
Robbyn’s unbridled passion for cheese was only matched by Kyle’s unquenchable (!) enthusiasm for tea. The two worked well together; Robbyn would tell us about whichever cheese was next, and then Kyle would emerge from the back room brandishing a teapot full of Oolong. They’re a knowledgeable pair, always throwing out the kind of facts you subsequently spend your whole life awaiting an opportunity to tell somebody else. FOR EXAMPLE, it’s all bollocks about red wine going with cheese. It drowns out the flavour, appaz, and the most idiot-proof wine that’ll go with almost any cheese is Prosecco or Champagne. (Yes, yes, I know. The horror!)
Now, you know I wouldn’t recommend trekking all the way to Greenwich unless it was for something rather special, but for cheese-lovers this really is a fantastic evening. If you’re only in it for the tea, the noodle evening on Shaftesbury Avenue may be a more convenient location (and the food at the noodle house is fabulous too). Tickets to both are £15pp, and the cheese-tasting includes six different teas and painstakingly paired cheeses. Tickets are available at EventBrite, and you can find more information about Whittington’s Tea Emporium online.
Events are held at The Cheese Board, 26 Royal Hill, SE10 8RT – you can find out more on their website.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.