Mid-autumn, when friends and family come together to admire the moon and eat tiny slices of mooncakes. We sip tea with tea experts from HOJO, Purple Cane, The Tea Republic and Da Hong Pao to find out which are the best tea accompaniments for classic mooncake flavours.
Pair it with: Ripe pu-er
As the five-kernel mooncake (with its cluttered filling of almonds, walnuts, dried winter melon, pumpkin seeds, candied orange peel, maltose syrup and sometimes, shredded roast pork) already has lots going on (there’s crunch with sweet and citrusy undertones), the lighter ripe pu-er would be perfect with this particular mooncake. Local tea purveyor Purple Cane recommends tailoring the tea pairing to the person; the five-kernel mooncake, which is highly popular among the older generation, would go well with ripe puer due to its digestive properties, low caffeine content and soothing, mellow flavour.
Pair it with: Darjeeling tea
Snowskin mooncakes, with its mochi-like tender chewy dough made of roasted rice flour, has a light fragrance of its own. While Darjeeling is classified as black tea, this boutique tea has an unusual light golden colour that’s almost like green tea. Ms Lai Lih Ning from tea specialists HOJO suggests using first flush Darjeeling as this lightly fermented first harvest of spring from the Himalayas has a somewhat floral fragrance compared to its darker counterparts harvested in summer and autumn. The light tea helps to enhance the subtle taste of the non-baked snowskin mooncakes.
Red bean mooncake
Pair it with: Sencha
According to Lai from HOJO, red bean mooncakes are best paired with Japanese sencha. While Chinese green teas such as long jing will also go well with red bean mooncakes, the processing method (steaming, as opposed to the Chinese method of pan frying tea leaves) of Japanese green teas will result in deeper, richer flavours. Lift the subtle nutty flavours in red bean mooncakes with the robust, grassy sencha. Lai recommends the uji sencha fukamushi, a version of tea that has undergone longer steaming for a sweet, nutty flavour.
Lotus paste mooncake
Pair it with: Oolong
As one of the most luxurious mooncake fillings (lotus seeds are an expensive commodity; and cleaning, boiling and mashing the paste is a laborious process), the lotus paste mooncake is sometimes substituted with white kidney bean paste or flavouring. While real lotus paste mooncakes are smooth, light and sweet, most lotus paste mooncakes we know can sometimes be exceptionally sweet and slightly cloying. Pair it with neutral teas such as semi-fermented oolong tea, tie guan yin or raw pu-er so as to not overpower the palate.
Pair it with: Rooibos
While not actually from Shanghai, the Shanghai mooncake is characterised by its buttery, flaky pastry crust and a lotus paste filling with a salted egg yolk centre. Sumita J Singam, founder of The Tea Republic, pairs these rich flavours with black teas or a tisane such as rooibos. Pronounced ‘roy-boss’, this herbal infusion (meaning red bush in Afrikaans) is a beautiful red caffeine-free brew with lots of flavour. Try the Ruby Red, a blend of South African rooibos mixed with caramel available at The Tea Republic.
Want pretty mooncake boxes?
Besides a host of traditional and creative new flavours to choose from, mooncake season also means the return of pretty (and functional!) mooncake boxes that you'll want to salvage long after Mid-Autumn Festival is over. Here are the mooncake flavours and gift boxes that are available this year.