Even the most dedicated oenophiles can’t serve wine EVERY night, but the problem is always the same: what the hell else do you serve with good food? Soft drinks? Juice? Uh, no. Water? Well, yes. . . . Sparkling water? Sure, there’s nothing like a little sparkling at the table. But its solo presence in some ways highlights the ABSENCE of wine, at least to this dedicated wino.
So the task I set out for myself was: come up with a nonalcoholic beverage that actually pairs well with food. My first thoughts centered around tea. But hot tea doesn’t really work with food, and iced tea is great when it’s hot, especially for lunch, but a pitcher of iced tea at the table just doesn’t, I dunno, set the right mood somehow.
And then I serendipitously tasted something that changed the whole game. My friend Eddie had brought over what I thought was chilled champagne. It was champagne colored, and in a champagne bottle. But it was … tea! Jasmine tea, fermented as konbucha, and blasted with C02 to produce one of the cleanest, creamiest, perfect-with-food beverages I have ever tasted.
I bugged Eddie to set me up with a tank of my own, so that I could explore this pretty brave new world of carbonated waters and teas. We started off by making pomegranate-meyer lemon water, which was so good I could barely control myself! The possibilities seemed endless — I could do savory herb infusions, every tea known to mankind, tisane blends, citrus waters of all stripes . . . .
And then, just for fun, I made my usual afternoon cup of matcha and instead of drinking it let it cool, and poured it into a glass bottle. I filled it with icy filtered water, blasted it with CO2, and voila! It has no sugar, and all the sophistication of matcha. Refreshing as hell, and yet pairs well with food, especially Japanese-inspired food. I imagine it would look incredible with a fancy label in a real champagne bottle. Quite the unusual gift to bring to a dinner party!
Eddie has since started his own sparkling tea line, and it’s remarkable.
My other sparkling favorites so far have been Marriage Frere Marco Polo, hojicha, rooibos paradiso, and the pom-meyer. Let me know if you have ideas for more, and I’ll try them and report back!