Culinary pairings are wonderful. Much like the very popular combination of wine and cheese, tea too can be paired with a number of foods to make for a delicious, satiating combination. It’s only natural that our undying love for the drink makes us explore newer ways for us to enjoy it. Although there are many foods that can go with tea, cheese included, tea and chocolate really is something special!
When experimenting with different flavour profiles, it is crucial to understand the science behind the pairing. The key to understanding pairings is being mindful of the complex notes behind them, the denseness, the earthiness and the sweetness. Look, we know it can be intimidating with the different varieties of teas available. You don’t want yourself or your guests to have an unpleasant experience after all! So let us try to understand the science behind pairing tea with chocolate.
First and foremost, the choice of the chocolate. Although you can use any chocolate, the choicest pairings use chocolates that offer true cacao tastes. Similarly, the grade of tea used needs to be premium. It’s also advised to keep an open mind about flavours or variations you don’t like because when paired well, you might very well end up enjoying it. When pairing the two, one should focus on either complementing, contrasting, or enhancing the flavour. When trying to complement flavours, look for a tea and chocolate that may not have similar characteristics but are compatible. Like an oolong tea with citrus-infused chocolate. When attempting to contrast flavours, go for a tea and chocolate with completely different properties, so that each flavour stands out. Like a black tea and creamy milk chocolate. And the third alternative is to enhance each of the flavours. To enhance, choose a tea and chocolate that share some similar characteristics. For example, a green tea with nutty notes, and a chocolate that contains nuts.
Let us now look at some different pairings to get you started-
White chocolate- White chocolate with its creamy, smooth goodness is a delicious place to start off the list. The sweetness, which is the main characteristic of white chocolate, works rather well with Tisanes. The sweetness of the chocolate is very well balanced out by the natural acidity of an herbal tea. Another lovely yet unexpected pairing with this is Matcha. Yes, Matcha! The direct contrast between the slightly earthy Matcha and the sweet White chocolate makes for a lovely pairing with a smooth, velvety mouthfeel.
Milk chocolate- Milk chocolate is one of the most versatile chocolate variations when it comes to pairing with tea. It has a wide range of teas that it works very well with from a spicy masala chai to a smoky, astringent black tea. With Milk chocolate, look no further than some high grade Genmaicha.
Dark chocolate- Dark chocolate, which has high cocoa content, usually has a robust, bold flavour. With Dark chocolate, it is best to go for tannic-heavy Green and Black teas. Often this perspective comes from the fact that Green tea and Dark chocolate are both respectively the healthiest variations.
The general principle is to avoid adding too much overwhelming flavour on the palate. You don’t want too much happening at once. This will let you focus on what’s more important- the texture, mouthfeel, and layers of gentle flavours.
Finally, the tasting process. How do you go about the tasting? First take a nibble of the chocolate and let it melt on your mouth. Then slowly take a sip of the tea and let yourself experience the fusion of the flavours. If you can still taste both, then the pairing is ideal. If one is stronger than the other, either contrasting or complementing, it can still be very enjoyable. Then reverse the process by taking a sip before the chocolate. Notice how the flavours go together and determine if the pairing worked.
Remember, when tasting, do not go beyond 3-5 pairings of teas and chocolates because it will overwhelm the palate and become difficult to tell one flavour from the other.