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IT’S sinful, it’s delectable, and at times, pungent. Not being typically a part of Malaysian cuisine, we locals are nevertheless no stranger to the deliciousness of cheese, thanks to the invention of pizza for the most part.

In Europe alone, there are over 700 varieties of cheese, which are typed according to the region of production, the cheese-making process, and the type of cow or animal the milk is sourced from.

Recently the European Union and the CNIEL organised a cheese-tasting event called A European Cheese Extravaganza, which is part of the the Cream of Europe Campaign,  at The Orchid Room, Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

During the event, Chef Jean-Michel Fraisse showed how to pair different types of cheese with specific teas like Oolong, Black Tea and White Peony, just to name a few.

As many of you would know, the natural partner to savour cheese with would be wine, due to its tannin content. However, to introduce a fresh (aka hipster) twist, Chef Fraisse put together an interesting pairing of cheese and tea, complimenting another tannin-lined beverage with the array of European cheese laid before us – which works all too well here considering many Malaysians are unable or simply do not consume alcoholic beverages.

Here are some of the scrumptious cheeses and pairings that Chef Fraisse introduced:

Fourme d’Ambert

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Taking into consideration the reputation that blue cheese has to its name, the Fourme d’Ambert was actually pleasantly pungent. The trick to savouring this cheese is to take only a small pinch at a time – any more and the flavours would be too overpowering. This cheese hails from the Auvergne region in France, and is aged for two months. Pairing this cheese with a sip of Darjeeling tea enhances the flavourful experience that this blue cheese brings to the table.

Saint-Marcellin

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One of my personal favourites pairings, the Saint-Marcellin and green tea combination really worked for me, perhaps due to my inclination to green tea. On its own, the cheese is fairly enjoyable, possessing a creamy texture with a fruity and nutty taste. The Saint-Marcellin is aged in the Rhone Alpes region in France for two to six weeks.

Reblochon

European cheese extravaganza - cheese tasting and pairing with Chef Jean Michel Fraisse. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

This creamy cheese has a distinct aroma. At first taste, it seemed a little on the pungent side, however, after another couple of bites, it settled in well with the tastebuds. The Reblochon goes well with White Peony tea, which when coupled, brings out a curiously grassy flavour from both the cheese and the tea.

Brie

European cheese extravaganza - cheese tasting and pairing with Chef Jean Michel Fraisse. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

One of the more popularly favoured cheeses, the Brie is a soft and creamy cheese with subtle and mellow undertones that do not overwhelm the tastebuds. It’s easy to see why this cheese is popular, as it compliments almost anything that its paired with, especially with a sip of Black Tea.

Comte

European cheese extravaganza - cheese tasting and pairing with Chef Jean Michel Fraisse. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

The Comte, a hard cheese from the Franche-Comte region, reminds me distinctly of the Cheddar, but is different in the sense that its flavour is more elegant, subtle, and has a lovely smokey undertone that I personally found to be delicious. This cheese is typically aged for 12 to 18 months, and goes well with the Oolong Tea, although in my opinion, the Comte is perfect on its own.

Bethmale

European cheese extravaganza - cheese tasting and pairing with Chef Jean Michel Fraisse. RAYMOND OOI/ The Star

The Bethmale is soft and creamy in texture, and has a distinct pungent and milky aftertaste. This cheese is aged between four to eight weeks, and is concocted in the Pyrenees region in France. Not my personal favourite due to my aversion to milky undertones, personally I found the blend of flavours was more balanced when paired with the Golden Pu’Erh tea. If you were to choose just one tea to pair these cheeses with, Chef Fraisse recommends green tea or Oolong Tea, as both teas are good for washing down oily foods, and have a subtle flavour which makes it a more universal match to most cheeses.     If you were to choose just one tea to pair these cheeses with, Chef Fraisse recommends green tea or Oolong Tea, as both teas are good for washing down oily foods, and have a subtle flavour which makes it a more universal match to most cheeses. So the next time you head to the supermarkets, make sure to stock up on your teas!  


Related story: Making the perfect cheese platter

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