Pairing Chocolate with Tea
A Marriage of Exquisite Flavors
Pairings are both delicious and educational. Pairing tea with chocolate is a delicious way to learn more about your own palate, what you do or do not like, and a unique way to learn more about the flavor profiles of various teas because the sweetness of chocolate and the natural astringency of teas bring out the strongest essence of each.
Tea pairings with chocolate is also a delightful way to entertain with tea or to up the surprise element of dessert by making it not only delicious but an engaging experience with your guests.
CAVEAT: As always, choose both the best chocolates and the finest teas you can afford. Mediocre choices of either will be both disappointing in taste and in the possibility of an ideal pairing. And, because you’re not eating or drinking a large amount, the investment is quite reasonable for a fun experience. Besides, your palate deserves the best!
HOW TO PAIR:
The following are suggestions only. Since you can use a tiny bite of chocolate with perhaps a teaspoon or tablespoon of tea as a prelude, you can try the pairings often and with a variety of either teas or chocolates. When you find a pairing you love, indulge in a full cup of tea with a good chunk of the chocolate. Experimenting is part of the exploration of this exquisite pairing concept.
We are listing chocolate candies below because most other chocolate desserts involve quite a number of ingredients like milk, sugar, and flavorings that could ameliorate the flavor profiles of teas in the pairing protocol.
White chocolate is pure rich fat (that’s why it’s so delicious!) containing the cocoa butter with the additions of milk and sugar, and without the sharpness of cocoa nibs. The best pairing is a tea with intense astringency or bite, like a matcha or a strong Darjeeling so that each will counteract the other and provide you with a third “umami” flavor. Other tea pairing choices are Sencha or an assertive Dragonwell. While some aficionados would not pair oolongs with chocolates, you might find the floral perfume of an intense Ti Kwan Yin just right for a white chocolate. Try it!
By its very ingredients, milk chocolate has a considerable amount of milk in it plus milk solids, sweeteners, preferably sugar rather than corn solids or corn syrups, and from 10 to 40% cocoa, considerably less chocolate than dark chocolate which is why it tastes milder, sweeter, and less intense than dark chocolate.
It is a nearly perfect go-with chocolate to pair with most teas, but particularly great with round, soft black teas like Keemun or Yunnan or with Nilgiri or Nepalese teas. It should probably be your first choice to test any pairing. You could also take advantage of the milky essence of this chocolate and pair it with teas that have a sharper essence like your favorite spice-infused Masala Chai or the contrasting astringency of a Darjeeling or a fresh, assertive green like a Sencha or Ceylon green.
How much chocolate is in your choice? Dark chocolates can have anywhere from 50 to 89% dark chocolate for a tangy to bitter taste yet without the sweetness of much sugar and even less milk. As a result, choose carefully the one to match your bitter barometer. Start with the lowest percentage of cocoa and work your way up.
We suggest starting matching your candy with a sweet Gyokuro or a flavored tea like an Earl Grey or Osmathnus black Chinese tea. The milder the chocolate the more astringent a tea you can choose. By contrast, the more bitter the chocolate, the softer and rounder a tea you should choose like a Genmaicha, Yunnan black or green, or even an earthy Pu Erh works well with the intensity of a very dark chocolate. Take care not to choose too mild a tea as it can be overwhelmed by the chocolate.
CHOCOLATE WITH NUTS AND/OR FRUIT
Although it might seem that one should match like with like here, consider matching your almond or hazelnut chocolates with a mild green like a Sencha or Genmaicha or even a Hojicha to bring out the “nuttiness” of the chocolate. For chocolates with fruit in it, consider tangy Ceylon black teas, greens or a soft Yunnan green to bring out the fruitiness in the chocolate.
HOW TO TASTE:
First, take a small nibble of the chocolate and allow it to melt in your mouth. Then, take a sip of tea and ask yourself if the tea alters the taste of the chocolate and in what way. If you can still taste both the chocolate and the tea, this is an ideal pairing. If one is stronger than the other, it may not be perfect, but could certainly be enjoyable.
Then, reverse the procedure, and take a sip of the tea first followed by a bite of the chocolate. Are the flavors enhanced? Changed? Your answers will determine if this is a match for you and whether you should taste tea or chocolate first. Continue on with the other selections you have chosen.
In general, three to five pairings will be more than enough. Tasting too many will overwhelm the palate and make the tastings difficult to differentiate from one another.
Drink the teas without milk or sugar as there will be plenty of sweetness in your choices candies. Although it’s fine to use milk and sweetener in teas to match the dark chocolate choices, we find that the “cleaner” the tea, the clearer the flavor profile of both choices and the more enjoyable the tasting experience!