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Guide to mooncake and tea pairing

Learn the art of mooncake and tea pairing, just in time for mid-autumn

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.

Five-kernel mooncake
Photo: Daniel Chan
1/5

Five-kernel mooncake

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.

One Half wu liang shan ripe pu-er, RM13 per pot.
Fai Fong assorted fruits and nuts mooncake, RM17.50.

Also try: Chrysanthemum tea

Snowskin mooncake
Photo: Daniel Chan
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Snowskin mooncake

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.

HOJO Darjeeling first flush Gopaldhara China Special, RM68 for 50g in can.
Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur pandan and cheese mini snowskin, RM20.


Also try: Cold-brew fruit teas or floral teas

Red bean mooncake
Photo: Daniel Chan
3/5

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.

HOJO uji sencha fukamushi, RM98 for 100g in can.
Purple Cane black tea red bean mooncake, RM8.


Also try: Oolong

Lotus paste mooncake
Photo: Daniel Chan
4/5

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.

HOJO deep-fired dong ding oolong , RM128 for 100g in can.
Concorde Hotel Kuala Lumpur white pure lotus mooncake, RM108 per set of six.


Also try: Raw pu-er, hojicha

Shanghai mooncake
Photo: Daniel Chan
5/5

Shanghai mooncake

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.

The Tea Republic Ruby Red, RM18.90 per pot.
InterContinental Kuala Lumpur Shanghai mooncake with single egg yolk, RM32.

Also try: Wild black tea, Mount Wuyi rock tea

Want pretty mooncake boxes?

Mooncake flavours and gift boxes 2016

Mooncake season also means the return of pretty (and functional!) mooncake boxes you'll want to salvage long after Mid-Autumn Festival is over. Here, we pick the best packages that think outside the box.

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By: Joyce Koh

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