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Coffee Or Tea? Sip and Savour With These Delightful Teatime Pairings

Updated: May 20



The old British tradition of afternoon tea is characterised by elegant tiers of petite sandwiches, cakes, scones, and, of course, an exquisite pot of masterfully brewed tea. While the formal ritual is no longer observed with the same gravity as before, afternoon tea still lives on as a relaxed and refined affair to meet up with loved ones, and catch up over an assortment of delightful offerings. Today, the appealing practice even ropes in other beverages, such as coffees and fruit juices.

Here at Umbi Tea & Coffee, we are tea masters and coffee aficionados who go to great lengths to unravel enchanting — no, enlightening — pairings. This article serves as a preview of the taste experiences you could have as you set foot into our exquisite European-inspired cafe, finished with a touch of local flavours. From the full-bodied profile of coffee, the delicate aroma of tea, to the juicy burst of fruit, here are some ideas for a captivating afternoon tea session.

Exploring Coffee Pairings

Coffee flavours can vary widely based on their beans and brew. However, most of them are rich, intense, and permeated with a distinctive fragrance, whether it is nutty, fruity, earthy or others. The wide selection of flavours makes coffee a versatile choice for various afternoon tea treats.

Classic Coffee and Creamy, Chocolatey Goodness

Classic coffee is commonly used to refer to coffee produced using standard techniques. Compared to specialty coffee, it is considered more appealing to a wider audience, due to their balanced taste from varied blends. 

Classic coffee options, commonly espresso, americano or cappuccino, are best complemented by chocolatey and creamy flavours. For example, try savouring a bittersweet Black Forest Cake with a sweet but bold latte. The just-right richness of classic coffee melds perfectly with the smooth and mild sweetness of chocolate. 

A Lemon Cheesecake, on the other hand, indulges with its creaminess while softening the acidic profile of coffee. 

Specialty Coffee and Rich, Robust Creations

Meanwhile, coffee lovers might be more acquainted with specialty coffee — also known as artisanal coffee. This classification of the beverage involves coffee beans meticulously sourced, roasted and brewed, often using single-origin or high-quality beans. 

Specialty coffee is also known for their precise and innovative coffee-making techniques. This level of experimentation often leads to distinguished tastes and mouthfeels unique to the cafe itself. At Umbi, our Caramel Macchiato is simultaneously sweet and robust, with a buttery undertone, making our best-selling Choco Coffee Crepe a great accompaniment. 

Our signature Golden Heritage, featuring espresso, palm sugar and milk, romances with flavours that are slightly floral and maple-like — matching perfectly with fruity desserts to punctuate sweetness and introduce exciting zing. Consider a Strawberry Crepe or a Tropical Lime Cake in this context.

Discovering Tea Pairings

Afternoon tea isn’t complete without tea. The original central character to this leisurely, extravagant affair, the world of tea is expansive and harbours a kaleidoscope of scents and flavours that range from meadows of wildflowers to freshly picked fruits from the tropics. 

A helpful rule of thumb to guide your teatime pairings is to choose bakes with contrasting flavours. Alternatively, if you’re into amplifying flavours, complementing your desserts with a similarly flavoured tea works just as well.

Chinese Tea and Strong, Deep Profiles

Chinese teas such as pu-erh tea, white tea, black tea, green tea, and oolong tea, taste toasted and earthy. Depending on their individual varieties and respective origins, they can also be slightly flowery, fruity or even spicy. 

Their clean and mellow profiles make them an effective palate cleanser for sweeter desserts; and yet some vegetal or grassy notes provide a good balance to creamier ones. For instance, consider taking sips of green tea between bites of deep and intense Tiramisu. This will rejuvenate your taste buds with a refreshing cleanse, preparing them for the coffee-filled experience without tiring.

Herbal Tea and Similar, Harmonious Flavours

Herbal tea encompasses teas such as chamomile, peppermint and chrysanthemum. Setting itself apart from Chinese tea, or true tea, herbal tea frequently originates from dried flowers, fruit and herbs. 

Because herbal tea is extracted from various parts of botanical ingredients (rather than the leaves), it is also described as having lighter and more delicate flavours. This is where the principle of likeness can help to enhance your teatime taste experience, such as sweet for sweet and sharp for sharp. At Umbi, our carefully concocted Floating Snow, starring green tea with jasmine flower, characterised by calming, slightly sweet flavours, marries beautifully with the Russian Honey Cake, a sponge cake that’s delicate, moist and caramelised.

Likewise, our Tropical Nectar, which pierces with floral and fruity notes, finds a good partner in a special Strawberry Watermelon Cake.

Flavoured Tea and Gentle, Mellow Bakes

Different from Chinese and herbal teas which are sourced exclusively from botanical ingredients, flavoured teas may incorporate additional ingredients (both natural and artificial) to enhance their flavour profile. Many tea artisans use flavoured tea as an area of expertise to unleash their creativity, crafting unique aromas and tastes that open up tea-drinking to those with alternative preferences. By blending traditional tea components with a diverse array of flavourings, they create compositions that accommodate both discerning tea lovers and adventurous individuals. 

Pairing flavoured teas with neutral-tasting or complementary foods is a wonderful way to appreciate their individuality. Afternoon tea classics like scones, with their mild flavour and subtle sweetness, provide a pleasant backdrop for the myriad of flavours found in flavoured teas. Similarly, shortbread cookies, biscuits and vanilla-flavoured cakes deliver a sophisticated taste experience. Try this timeless combination with us at Umbi Tea & Coffee, where magical flavours such as Pineapple Tart, Once in a Blue Moon and Lychee Kris Grey come to life!

Trying Out Juice Pairings

Although less popular, including juices into an afternoon tea spread can introduce a refreshing and vibrant dimension to traditional tea pairings. Freshly squeezed juices can complement the sweet, sour, and occasionally savoury flavours of teatime delicacies with a welcome burst of natural sweetness and zest. Consider matching a citrus-based juice or beverage with an orange-infused cake, for instance. Umbi’s delectable Mango Crepes, dolloped with fresh cream, mango compote and calamansi, almost feels like it’s made exclusively for our seasonal fruit-based slushie.

Final Thoughts

In the inviting debate of “Coffee or Tea?” for afternoon tea, Umbi Tea & Coffee has unveiled many delicious pairings that are sure to captivate. From the rich depths of specialty coffee to the delicate nuances of tea, and even the awakening explosion of juicy flavours, every teatime experience is a celebration of flavour, innovation and connection.

Our afternoon tea fanatics at Umbi Tea & Coffee invite you to join us in exploring these enchanting combinations as we sip, savour and create memories that linger long after a dining session. No longer do we have to make excuses for indulging in afternoon tea — life itself is reason enough for this luxury. Come and visit us, and let every cup be a moment to treasure!


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