Tea and cannabis are alike in a lot of ways. Both are botanicals with medicinal properties; both are fragrant and agreeable to the senses; both have been used by cultures around the world for centuries; both can bring us pleasure, satisfaction, and comfort. As it turns out, both can also be even better when paired together. But how to go about pairing your tea with the perfect cannabis strain? Don’t be intimidated by pairing – it’s easier than you think.
Pairing Cannabis and Tea by Flavor
In order to pair your tea with cannabis, the first thing you’ll want to pinpoint are the aromas and flavors of each. Bring the dry tea leaves or tea bag close to your nose and mouth, and inhale deeply. Is it floral? Woodsy? Spicy? Citrusy? It can be hard to pull individual characteristics out of the complete bouquet, so use a flavor wheel to help you put your finger on the aromas you’re picking up. Keep in mind that tea can sometimes taste totally different when brewed than it smells when dry, so brew a cup, sniff, and take a few sips to get a more complete picture of aroma and flavor. Then, take a deep whiff (and perhaps a hit) of your cannabis and pick out its unique characteristics. (Need a cheat sheet? Use our strain explorer to search by flavor.)
Every type of tea (apart from herbal, which is not technically tea) comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The distinctions in tea type stem from the processing methods used on the tea leaves, which lead to varying levels of oxidation and thus to unique features. Individual teas can vary to a great extent, but these main categories often display common aromas and flavors:
White: These tea leaves are the youngest in the spectrum; they’re plucked directly off the tea plant prior to complete ripeness, and dried without allowing any time for oxidation. Their flavors are subtle, floral, honeyed, and delicate.
Green: These leaves are ripened fully, but steamed or fired immediately after being picked, and dried without any oxidation taking place. These teas retain mellow flavors often described as sweet, herbaceous, grassy, refreshing, or even nutty.
Oolong: These tea leaves are frequently tossed or bruised prior to drying, which begets partial oxidation in the leaves, leading to earthy, woodsy flavors that fall somewhere in between light, refreshing green teas and the bold, tannic black teas.
Black: This common type of tea is made from tea leaves that have been rolled, releasing enzymes that react with oxygen and ensure thorough oxidation prior to being fired. Black teas frequently display dark stonefruit, smoke, or malt flavors and tannic characteristics. They play well with other flavors too – you’ve probably had ginger peach black tea, or earl grey with bergamot orange peel.
Pu-erh: Sought after by tea aficionados, pu-erh is made from a subspecies of Camellia sinensis, and comes (by law) from the Yunnan Province of China, where it is aged and fermented prior to consumption. These unique teas can be dark, rich, earthy, fruity, or chocolatey.
Herbal: This category encompasses tisanes not made from actual tea leaves, including chamomile, rooibos, mint, yerba maté, and more. Flavors vary depending on the herbs, flowers, spices, and other botanicals that constitute the blend.
You can use pairings to either accentuate or complement the natural flavors of your favorite tea or strain. For instance, if you detect subtle hints of lavender in your white tea, a strain with a similar flavor profile like Lavender can magnify those elements; meanwhile, if your tea is quite lavender-esque on its own, a contrasting cannabis strain (think something citrusy, like Headband) can balance out those overly floral features.
Pairing Tea and Cannabis by Effect
When you pair beer with different cannabis strains, it’s important to take the effects of each into account; otherwise, a pairing of a heavy, high-alcohol beer with a sedative indica can put you straight to sleep, no matter how good they taste together. Similarly, consider the effects of the tea you’re pairing compared to the effects of the strain you’re considering. The main factor at play here is caffeine content; if you’re enjoying a highly caffeinated black tea, you can mollify the buzzy side effects with a relaxing indica, whereas if you’re sipping a caffeine-free white tea but aren’t quite ready to hit the sack, a sativa-dominant hybrid can prolong the relaxation.
Different herbal teas can also have their own range of effects; some serve to calm the mind, others help relax the body, and so on. Many of these teas’ effects can be attributed to the same terpenes that modify the effects of certain cannabis strains. Chamomile, for instance, has bisabolol to thank not just for its aroma, but also for some of its relaxing effects, just like Harle-Tsu (a strain frequently high in the same terpene) does. If you tend to experience mild paranoia when consuming a particular strain, for example, pairing it with a soothing herbal tea may be the perfect way to combat those effects and make for an enjoyable experience.
It’s important to remember that tea and cannabis pairing is far from an exact science; every individual experiences the effects of both tea and cannabis a bit differently. As with any pairing, what matters is whether you’re happy with the results. If you are, it’s a good pairing!
Cannabis and Tea Pairings to Try
Black tea and Jillybean: Earl grey tea is one of the most iconic flavor marriages out there; bold, tannic black tea leaves meet zesty, fragrant bergamot orange peel. Create your own version of earl grey with plain black tea leaves and a complex, orangey strain like Jillybean; this combination promises to be a crowd-pleaser any time you entertain friends.
Green tea and Blueberry Kush: The juicy, fruity indica that is Blueberry Kush plays beautifully with the light, grassy flavor profile of your favorite green tea. It’s the perfect pairing for a cozy evening at home.
Rooibos and Sour Diesel: Rooibos, also known as red tea, derives from the African red bush, packs tons of antioxidant properties, and brings a full-bodied flavor without all the tannins of black tea. Pair it with an uplifting, boldly flavored strain, like the pungent, earthy, sativa-dominant Sour Diesel, to get your motivation and creative juices flowing.