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Mooncake & Tea Pairings to Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival | 中秋节

Mooncake & Tea Pairings to Celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival  | 中秋节



Autumn is the traditional season of harvest and is a great time to reflect on what you
are thankful for and to gather with friends and family. Here in the U.S., we have
Thanksgiving, but many cultures in Asia have been celebrating autumn and moon
festivals from centuries before. I will be exploring the Chinese festival, but other
countries may share similar traditions.



The Mid-Autumn Festival, also referred to as Mooncake Festival, is the second largest
festival in China (only behind Chinese New Year). Like all Chinese festivals, it is
decided by lunisolar cycles. This festival is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar
month. Usually that occurs in mid-September through early October. For 2023, the
date is September 29.
Celebrations of the autumn harvest and reverence to the gods appeared more than
2,000 years ago in ancient Chinese history. It is believed that legends of the full
moon became associated with these celebrations that evolved into the Mid-Autumn
Festival during the Song dynasty. It was during the Northern Song dynasty (960-
1279) that its timing was designated.
Like most Chinese celebrations, the origins of this festival are full of colorful legends.
The most commonly told legend goes something like this: Originally, there were 10
suns, and the land was threatened to be scorched. Legendary archer Hou Yi shot
down the excess nine. As a reward, he was given an elixir that would grant him
immortality in the heavens. However, he was married to Chang’e and did not wish to
leave her, so he kept the elixir. Once when he was away, a villain who knew of the
elixir tried to force Chang’e to give it up, but she consumed it rather than allowing
him to obtain it. As she ascended, she settled on the moon, as it was the closest to
her beloved husband. Devastated upon returning, Hou Yi began a tradition of
preparing a large feast of her favorite foods on that day.


Traditions & Celebrations

Celebrations include playing with lanterns, moon gazing, and praying to the moon
for family, happiness, and success. The most fun tradition is, of course, mooncakes!
Making and sharing mooncakes is a hallmark of the festival. The round shape of the
moon symbolizes unity and harmony. The full moon can also symbolize reunion.
Therefore, family reunions are arguably the most important part of the holiday. Big
family feasts and the sharing of mooncakes with tea or wine reinforce the idea of
completeness and familial unity. Mooncakes are also given as holiday gifts.

What are Mooncakes?

The dough and consistency vary by region, but generally mooncakes are square or
round pastries containing a dense filling of sweet and sometimes savory ingredients.
They are shaped by a wooden mold that creates an ornate design on top and baked.
There is a wide range of ingredients, from traditional dates, nuts, fruit, sesame,
plums, red beans, and egg yolks to the more modern, such as alcohol-flavored and
chocolate, custard, and tea flavors. They are becoming increasingly popular in the
U.S. and can be usually found in Chinese bakeries. Our favorite local provider is Jeng
Chi, and they ship!

Tea + Mooncake Pairings

There are so many mooncake flavors and textures. Picking the right tea can help
accentuate flavors and cut through rich fillings. Here are some of our favorite

Red Bean + Green Dragon
We love how the sweet, earthy, and nutty flavors of the red bean filling are perfectly
complemented by this unique green and oolong blend.

Lotus & Yolk + Oolong like Amber Goddess or Dan Cong Stone Fruit
This traditional filling is sweet and savory and deliciously rich. A mid- or heavily-
oxidized oolong helps cut through any oiliness from the cake and provides a
wonderful balance.

5 Nut + Aged Pu’er like our Menghai Cake or Silk Road Adventure
This flavor can contain a heavy blend of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and even dried ham!
The flavorful sweet and savory fillings need a bold tea that can stand up to the rich
flavors. The earthy tea notes complement the nutty flavors.

Coconut and other fruity fillings + Orange Blossom
Oolong is a great base to cut any heaviness of the mooncake while allowing you
to savor the sweet, fruity notes that are complemented by the floral notes of the tea.

Red Date (Jujube) + Smoky Tea like Russian Caravan or Black Leopard
A favorite flavor of cake! The combination of the date and the smokiness of the tea
help accentuate secondary flavors of this mooncake, especially when there are nuts.

Custard + Dragonwell or Iron Goddess Floral
The custard filling is sweet and creamy but not too dense.  Buttery notes are
enhanced with the light vegetal and creamy notes of the teas.

Very Sweet/Chocolate + Keemun Hao Ya
This bold but smooth black tea is a great pair to very sweet, snow skin, and chocolatey
mooncakes. It tones down the sweetness and allows the flavors to shine.




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