Despite the intense busyness of this time of year, I still feel a glimmer of my childhood sense of glee as the festive season approaches. I love the colourful, sensory experience of Christmas. The shimmering decorations on the tree, the smell of pine needles, the jingle of Christmas music, the anticipation of a table laden with shiny Christmas crackers and a plentiful array of aromatic, delicious food. The pop of a champagne cork.
On Christmas Day, alcohol can play a feature role for many. But for those who choose not to imbibe, there can be a sense of missing out. And the celebratory feeling of alcohol can be hard to replicate.
Tea is a wonderful alternative. The environment the tea plant grows in - soil, altitude and weather etc, as well as the processing steps the tea maker takes the leaf through, all influence the final flavour in your cup, making it as deep and complex as wine.
And the experience of tea is colourful and sensory – just like Christmas. The magic that’s released from the leaves when infused in water creates an encounter that touches each of our five senses. It pairs well with food. And served in glassware, it looks beautiful on your table, creating a Christmas glow of its own.
Here are some ideas if you’d like to replace alcohol with tea, or serve both, on Christmas Day.
Create your own ‘tea champagne’ with cold-brewed sparkling tea
When infused in sparkling water, tea is lighter in body and its floral and fruity notes are elevated, creating a vibrant and playful, celebratory tea. I often serve sparkling tea in champagne flutes, which gives it the festive appearance of champagne. Whisky tumblers with a garnish work well too. The flavour complexity of tea creates a satisfying cold, sparkling drink with a lot of depth, similar to champagne.
This can be served first thing on Christmas morning, as an aperitif before your main meal, with your entrees or as a palate cleanser (and hydrator) between courses. See below for instructions.
Most teas work well cold-brewed but those with floral or fruity base notes work best. Here are some suggestions:
Giddapahar First Flush, black tea, India
Himalayan Moon Drops, oolong, Nepal
Satemwa OP1, black tea, Malawi
Cape Jasmine oolong, Taiwan
Jasmine Pearls, green tea, China
Serve a medium to full bodied black tea with your mains
A Christmas main course is often a rich experience with heavy dishes and full flavours. The deep flavour notes of a medium to full bodied black tea will complement your mains and its tannic nature will help counterbalance rich food. Serve hot without milk for the best flavour and food pairing experience.
Here are some suggestions:
Lumbini Pekoe, Sri Lanka
Lumbini OP1, Sri Lanka
Satemwa OP1, Malawi
Wild Boar, Vietnam
Elevate your desert with oolong
Fragrant and full of intrigue, oolong tea can surprise and delight a tea drinker. It is the style of tea that most people love. Oolong sits in the middle of the six categories of tea: white, green, yellow, oolong, black and dark tea.
On Christmas Day, serve a hot-steeped oolong with your desserts or cheeseboard. A dry style oolong with floral or fruity notes will enhance the flavours of your dessert, and act as a nice palate cleanser between sweet, creamy mouthfuls.
Livingstone Twist and Dry Oolong, Malawi
Thyolo Misty oolong, Malawi
Da Hong Pao, China
Himalayan Moon Drops, Nepal
Tea contains L-theanine, which is said to help move our brains into a state of calm. And the simple act of sipping a cup of good tea, feeling its warmth sooth your body as it slips down your throat, is a relaxing experience. After a busy lead up to Christmas Day, this is likely to be exactly what we all need.
Create your own Christmas Day tea menu
Choose from my loose leaf collection, or pick up my ‘Tea for Christmas Day box, where I have chosen a selection for you.
If you need help pairing your Christmas day menu with tea, email me!
Sparkling tea method
1. Using a funnel, add 1 gram of tea per 100 mls* into a bottle of sparkling water. Screw the lid on tightly.
2. Place in the fridge and steep for 2 hours, then open the lid very slowly (it can bubble over) and gently pour through a strainer into a serving pitcher. When ready, pour into glasses. Garnish with edible flowers, dried citrus, small sprigs of rosemary or thyme etc if you wish; serve and enjoy.
Cold-brewing tea in cold water reduces its caffeine content. I let my kids have sparkling tea and haven't noticed any adverse effects, but please use your own judgement!
Find out more about tea and food pairing: A beginner's guide to tea and food pairing
Find out more about how to use tea to keep yourself calm and centered during the 'silly season': How to stay sane on Christmas day
> Shop all of my tea collections here