Wednesday November 4, 2009 | 9 comments
When paired well, tea and chocolate can be a heavenly experience. The warmth of the tea melts the chocolate. They mingle in your mouth, creating a silky, flavorful combination. However, if paired badly, the combination can create a sour, mushy goo that is hard to swallow.
In my quest to find the perfect pairing, I tasted twenty-five different teas and paired them with twenty different chocolates. I tried dark, milk, and white chocolate plus a few other flavored chocolates that I thought might go well with each particular tea. Through my experimentation, I found five combinations that I thought were outstanding and five guidelines that can help anyone create a successful combination.
1. Pick combinations that won’t overpower each other.
A strong black tea or dark chocolate can be overpowering, while the complexities of a delicate white tea or light milk chocolate can get lost. The general rule is black and Darjeeling teas pair best with dark chocolate or dark milk chocolate. Green, oolong, white, and herbal teas pair best with a light milk chocolate or white chocolate. An exceptional combination that follows this rule is Sacher Blend Scented Darjeeling with a Dagoba Mint Bar. The fresh mint blends well with the soft Darjeeling and the bar is only 59% dark chocolate, so the flavor of the tea still shines through the chocolate.
2. Choose complementary flavors.
Pair flavors that complement each other rather than match each other. A lavender tea paired with a lavender chocolate tends to cancel out the lavender flavor. It is best to pick teas and chocolates that enhance the flavor. Genmai Cha tea, for example, is a sweet, nutty green tea with puffed rice and popped corn. If it is combined with Domori LatteSal, a milk chocolate bar that is flavored with sea salt, it turns into a sophisticated version of eating popcorn and goobers at the movie theater.
The flavor of a specific tea and a specific chocolate (particularly a single-origin chocolate) is defined by what kind of plant or bean is used, where it is grown, when and how the leaves or beans are dried, and what kind of ingredients are added. For instance, Lapsang Souchong is a strong, black tea that is smoked over pine needles. Pralus Papouasie Bar is a dark chocolate bar made from beans from Papua New Guinea, which usually tend to be dark, strong, and fruity. When combined together, the mixture tastes rich, strong, and smokey, with a tiny hint of red berries.
4. Be open minded.
Leave all preconceived ideas of what kind of tea and what kind of chocolate you prefer behind. Once the tea and chocolate are paired together, a new flavor is created. For example, I am not a fan of white chocolate, but I found that it pairs extremely well with most teas. It is a lot like adding cream and sugar. It also boosts the flavor of a flowery or fruity herbal tea. A great combination that illustrates this point is combining fragrant Organic Jasmine Pearls with Amedei Cioccolato al Latte Bianco, which is an exceptionally creamy white chocolate bar that enhances the sweet, floral notes of the tea.
5. Read the packaging.
You don’t have to be a tea or chocolate expert to make good flavor combinations because labels on most teas and chocolates will describe the dominate flavors. Chuao Firecracker Bar is a dark chocolate bar that is flavored with spicy, smoky, chipotle chilies and textured with popping candy. It pairs well with the earthy Antique Pu-er.
Anyone can successfully pair tea and chocolate with a little thought and experimentation. It is fun to create unique flavor combinations that can lead to an elegant afternoon indulgence or a simple dessert.