Tea is an incredibly versatile beverage. Have you ever tried sipping tea while savoring high-quality chocolate? If the answer is no, you’re missing out on a unique sensory experience. Tasting tea and chocolate together can help amp up both of their delightful nuances. And because we all secretly need an excuse to eat more chocolate, this looks like a perfectly acceptable one, and it’s virtually guilt-free, because, after all, it’s also a tea tasting.
Here are some introductory tips and tricks. Give them a try, and once you feel confident enough, experiment with your own combinations. First, match intensity of flavor — a bold chocolate with an equally robust tea and vice versa. Then, identify aroma and flavor notes by smelling and tasting tea and chocolate separately. Those aroma and flavor notes can successfully enhance each other by similarity or by contrast, but they shouldn’t clash or be overpowering. Ideally, in a successful pairing, the combined flavors keep developing into a harmonious result that will have you go back for more.
Tea is brewed hot, which will help the chocolate melt faster in your mouth and release its aromatic compounds. Try taking a sip of tea right before eating a small piece of chocolate and follow with another sip of tea. There are two ways of brewing hot tea, Eastern style (a large amount of loose-leaf tea is steeped in a small amount of water and the same leaves yield multiple short steeps) and Western style (a small amount of loose-leaf tea is steeped in a large amount of water for one single, long steep). Depending on the type of tea, brewing will require a different style and a different water temperature. Ask your tea purveyors for their recommended brewing method and temperature.
CHARLES CHOCOLATES SALTY-SWEET HAZELNUT
This rich, bittersweet chocolate bar with whole hazelnuts and fleur de sel goes well with Song Tea Nantou Dark, a Taiwanese green oolong roasted multiple times to deepen its aroma and flavor palette. It is roasty and
slightly smoky on the nose, and has comforting, sweet notes of caramel and buttered toast, which pair beautifully with the chocolate’s roasty, nutty and caramel notes. For a different yet equally delicious result, try Silk Road Teas Golden Monkey (Jin Hou) from Fujian Province, China. This black tea has golden buds and intense notes of chocolate and apricots, almost reminiscent of an Austrian Sacher torte. It really plays up the chocolate salty, sweet and nutty flavors, while the pairing enhances its natural sweetness and fruity notes.
DANDELION CHOCOLATE KOKOA KAMILI
Dark chocolate lovers, this one is for you. This single-origin (Tanzania) chocolate bar will surprise you with berry notes and a rich finish. Try it with Blue Willow Tea Heaven Needle (Smoked Tian Jian, also known as “Heavenly Tips”). It is a variation of a type of dark tea from Hunan Province, China. Its tender tips are gently smoked over pine wood and then lightly fermented, for an unusual flavor profile that is sweet, with maple syrup and roasted chestnut notes and a hint of smoke. Surprisingly, it mellows out the chocolate tartness, while making it extremely velvety. Bonus point: delicious notes of sweet almond paste linger in the aftertaste. For a more adventurous option, try Tap Twice Tea Sun Moon Lake —raspberries, wildflower honey and mead on the nose, mead and berry preserve on the palate with a hint of menthol in the aftertaste. The berry notes in both the chocolate and the tea enhance each other for a bright, tart finish.
MAST MILK CHOCOLATE
Decadent but not overly so, this velvety milk chocolate is made with buttermilk and flavored with vanilla. Pair it with The Phoenix Collection Yao Qing Hua Xiang, a black tea that is unlike anything you’ve had before. It’s reminiscent of red berries, cacao, and coconut, and it definitely displays some gardenia and orchid notes, which the chocolate pleasantly amplifies for a luscious mouthfeel.
Compartes chocolate confections are well known for their unique flavor combinations, including avocado. Pairing this matcha-flavored white chocolate bar with a bowl of frothy matcha Japanese green tea is a no-brainer, and it works. Use the traditional bamboo whisk or a milk frother to prepare the tea and make sure your water is not too hot (170–176 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal). Expect a sweet and buttery chocolate with a grassy, vegetal aftertaste. This pairing elegantly balances the chocolate sweetness, while delivering an extra smooth mouthfeel.
Whether for a dinner party or an indulgent pick-me-up, pairing tea with chocolate can be as fancy or as unpretentious as you like. Regardless of the occasion, it is definitely worth experimenting with.
Note: All the chocolate confections mentioned above can be found at The Epicurean Trader (1909 Union Street).