Whoever thought of pairing tea and chocolate? I Googled the matter, which as we all know is akin to deep research. Nada. I am convinced it was a fortuitous, serendipitous aha moment like the discovery of penicillin. Someone popped a chocolate in their mouth and distractedly sipped hot tea. Imagine the amazement as the chocolate melted and melded with the tea producing delectable, soothing, splendiferous, awesome, scrumptious—okay stopping now, but the truth is all of those adjectives and more apply. Tea and chocolate is an indulgent pairing which allows their individual nuances to be highlighted. Both share many of the same evaluator characteristics, such as fruit and floral aromas and varying levels of astringency from tannins.
Green tea has been gaining recognition as a natural healer. Now dark chocolate is developing the same reputation. Both green tea and dark chocolate appear to be potent antioxidants. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals; the destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments. Don’t you just love it that something so decadently blissful is actually healthy for once?
Ultimately your palate and sense of creative adventure are your guides, but there are few basic suggestions which will kick start your experience.
First taste the tea independently before tasting any chocolate. Don’t rush the experience. Examine the color. Is it golden, green or more of a brown? Smell the aroma. Is it floral, grassy or fruity? What is the viscosity of the tea? Does your mouth feel coated, juicier or is there dryness with a bit of bite left after you swallow? Where did you experience the most flavor rush, beginning, middle, end or balanced from start to finish? Do the same with the chocolate concentrating on its individual traits.
Good chocolate should appear to have an even texture and possess a shiny gloss. Inhale the aroma, taking note of any flower or fruity scents. Next is the best part, put a piece in your mouth. Good chocolate will melt in your mouth without any chewing; coating it with creaminess and will never leave a waxy residue. Allow it to slowly melt in your mouth. Sometimes this is a difficult step to adhere to, but it’s worth it. As the chocolate melts, what flavors can you distinguish and what is the aftertaste at the finish?
If tasting more than one tea and chocolate, it helps to munch plain crackers to cleanse your palate between tastings.
When considering which teas and chocolate might be a delicious pairing, think about flavor combinations that already exist and have proven to be winners like toast and jam, ham and pineapple or dipping fruit in a fondue pot of chocolate.
Successful, flavorsome combinations of tea and chocolate can be achieved in several other ways.
First look for tea and chocolate pairings with similar characteristics thereby enhancing each other. For example Dragon Well green tea has an overall nutty vegetal taste. It pairs well with white chocolate almond bark or praline milk chocolates.
Genmaicha is a hearty tea with toasted rice and is an obvious choice for fruit flavored chocolates reminiscent of rice crispies and fruit.
Conversely satisfying pairings are made with chocolate and teas with contrasting flavors. Just like people, opposites attract. Sometimes these pairings are the biggest hit. Gunpowder green tea with its smoky overtones compliments the sweet salty trio of nuts, marshmallow and chocolate in Rocky Road chocolates. Sencha green tea from Japan with its deep grassy flavor and juicy mouthful is a tantalizing pairing with dark chocolate. The vegetal profile of the tea refreshes and enhances the richness of the cocoa.
Be careful when pairing flavored teas with flavored chocolates. If there are too many flavors and aromas happening at the same time, it can make a pairing too busy and complicated. Initially pair flavored tea with a more basic chocolate and vice versa. So many teas, so many chocolates, endless combinations to try, well someone has to do it. Why not you?