TGRWT #19: Tomato and black tea


This month’s round of TGRWT is hosted by Pablo over at Medellitin, and the foods to pair this time are tomato and black tea. As always you can find instructions on how to participate in the announcement post. If you are new to TGRWT (which stands for They Go Really Well Together), check out the round-ups of the previous 18 rounds! And if you are chemically inclined, you may want to read on to learn more about the compounds behind this months pairing.

With a little help from Douglas Baldwin (whom I interviewed about sous vide recently) I’ve been able to pinpoint the compounds which occur naturally in both tomato and black tea, according to The Good Scents Company website:

(E)-2-hexen-1-al, (E)-2-hexen-1-ol, (E)-2-hexen-1-yl acetate, (E)-2-nonen-1-al, (E)-geranyl acetone, (Z)-2-hexen-1-ol, (Z)-3-hexen-1-al, (Z)-3-hexen-1-ol, (Z)-3-hexen-1-yl acetate, 1-octen-3-ol, 1-penten-3-ol, 2,4-decadien-1-al, 2-hexen-1-ol, 2-methyl furan, 5-methyl furfural, ammonia, butyl alcohol, butyraldehyde, butyric acid, citronellol, dihydroactinidolide, dimethyl sulfoxide, dimethyl trisulfide, ethyl hexanoate, gamma-hexalactone, gamma-valerolactone, geranic acid, hexanal, hydrogen sulfide, isoamyl alcohol, isovaleraldehyde, isovaleric acid, linalool oxide, methyl ethyl ketone, ortho-guaiacol, propionaldehyde, valeraldehyde

Now this might seem impressive, but as I’ve touched upon previously it is highly uncertain that all of these compounds actually contribute to the flavors of tomato and black tea. Many are probably present at concentrations well below the individual odor thresholds. To alleviate this one preferably needs odor activity values. The closest I came for tomatoes was the mention (free pdf) of a “model” tomato paste with the following compounds:

(E)-beta-damascenone, 2-phenylethanol, 3-methylbutanal, 3-methylbutyric acid, 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone, 4-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone, 4-vinylguaiacol, 5-ethyl-4-hydroxy-2-methyl-3(2H)-furanone, acetic acid, butyric acid, dimethyl sulphide, eugenol, linalool, methional, methylpropanal, vanillin

And for tea (both black and green) there is a complete PhD thesis available for download (in German). The following compounds in black teas had high FD (flavor dilution) values:

(E)-2-nonenal, (E)-beta-damascenone, (E,E)-2,4-decadienal, (E,E,Z)-2,4,6-nonatrienal, 2-phenylethanol, 3-hydroxy-4,5-dimethyl-2(5H)-furanone, 3-methyl-2,4-nonandion, 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone, beta-ionone, geraniol, linalool, phenylacetaldehyde, phenylacetic acid, vanillin

Comparing the two latter lists, we get the following shortlist for odorants present in tomato (paste) and black tea which contribute significantly to their aromas:
(E)-beta-damascenone, 2-phenylethanol, 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone, linalool, vanillin (shown below). The fact that none of these are included in the data from The Good Scents Database illustrates my point about using OAVs to evaluate flavor pairing.


Werner Grosch “Evaluation of the Key Odorants of Foods by Dilution Experiments, Aroma Models and Omission” Chem. Sens. 2001, 531.
Schuh, Christian “Wichtige Aromastoffe in schwarzem und grünem Tee (Camellia sinensis)”, PhD disseratation, TU München, 2004.


  1. Hi Martin,
    I’ve found OAVs of fresh tomatoes in the book “Flavourings” (Wiley-VCH). Highest are:


    OAVs of paste and fresh tomatoes are quite different. (Z)-3-Hexanal isn’t really present in paste. Same as trans-4,5-Epoxy-(E)-2-decenal. But (Z)-3-Hexanal, I remember, is one of the highest OAV-compounds in green tea.

    best regards

  2. Klaus: Thanks for the details and mentioning the book – from the google preview it really seems to have a convenient coverage of OAV for several foods! From the compounds you list I guess that mainly leaves us with (E)-beta-damascenone and beta-ionone then for overlap between tomatoes and black tea.

  3. I’ve been following Martin’s blog for a long time and also enjoyed this TGRWT-rally very much. I am usually lazy to participate more actively but now I took the time…

    I checked just for fun the shortlist of odorants listed earlier – (E)-beta-damascenone, 2-phenylethanol, 4-hydroxy-2,5-dimethyl-3(2H)-furanone, linalool, vanillin. The 2 first ones are important for rose odor, the third one has also name “strawberry furanone” and is characteristic to – surprise – strawberry. Linalool is important odor compound in herbs especially form mint family and vanillin we all know. Although I do not think that there is sufficient amount of evidence to support flavor paring hypothesis, it would be interesting to see if the notes of rose, mint family herbs, strawberry and/or vanillin would build up a tasty combination of tomato and black tea. At least I will try…

  4. My experiment with vanilla extract and plum wine (rose family) made the tomato/tea sauce too bitter. It improved after cooking with ground beef, but then the results were too astringent. I couldn’t add sugar so I added cinnamon, and it was excellent. At this point I don’t know if the tea and tomato is buried by everything else, though! There was also some mint in the mix, that was quite nice. I’ll have to try this again later to get the proportions figured out, but since I can only eat so much tomato it may have to wait a week. This is fun, thanks for the challenge!

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