By: Katherine Burnett
As the tea team here in Charlottetown is submerged in the summer wave of tea provisions for our vast array of clientele, I am diving into yet another module in the Tea Sommelier courses. It really does seem in the summer months on PEI that many small businesses like ours are up to our necks, keeping afloat and loving the challenge of tourist season extraordinaire!
Tea and Food Pairing was one course I was looking forward to and here I am, delving into yet another aspect of tea.
Are you a chocolate lover? I think I've only met one person in my entire life who did not like chocolate. Though milk chocolate was all I ever knew, like tea, more types of chocolate are available for the discerning and experimental palate. I've been learning and as a result I have tasted a variety of chocolate along with teas that work very well with each other.
Tea and Food Pairings is a popular subject amongst tea enthusiasts. It is very much like wine and food pairings...there are things to consider regarding the flavours in both the tea and the chocolate and how they combine to create new flavours when enjoyed together.
In some cases it is a good idea to match flavours in the tea and chocolate. In others, counterpointing the flavours is the better choice over matching them. For the most part, it is a personal reflective discipline but there are some general rules of thumb which I will share below. Usually you like what you like, but if you are willing to try something new sometimes you'll be surprised by the chocolates and teas that complement each other!
Lady Baker's Chocolate & Tea Rules 101
1. Some like it dark! If you have a craving for the nurturing goodness of 90% dark chocolate, I recommend you brew yourself a cup of Lapsang Souchong, Russian Caravan (both of these are smoky) or even a Puerh, which is pretty strong and earthy in character. Both the teas and the chocolate in this case are strong and dark. Sip a little tea, put the piece of chocolate on your tongue so that it starts to melt a little bit, savour the flavour for a few seconds and then take another sip of tea. The combined flavours are really quite interesting if you pay close attention.
2. Milk, milk baby! Now try a milk chocolate which has nuances of creaminess with an Assam black tea which is malty and full-bodied. Again, sip, taste the chocolate and then sip again. What do you taste?
3. Milk with a fruity twist. Nowadays we have the luxury of being able to get high quality milk chocolate blended with citrus or other fruits like raspberry in ordinary grocery stores. These are lovely with an oolong like our Oo-La-Long because the oolong is light in character and a bit fruity with honey-like qualities. It's a match made in heaven!
4. Some like it white. I haven't been overly fond of white chocolate in the past, but when I was able to get the real thing it appealed to me so much more. It's not a coincidence that white tea, like our White Peony works well with white chocolate. White tea is very gentle and smooth with sweet undertones. With a square of milk chocolate, it's a real treat.
5. Bergamot & milk chocolate are a pair made in heaven. Earl Grey is a household staple (and if it isn't yet in your house, it should be ;-)). It is also tastes delicious when sipped with milk chocolate and or any chocolate dessert. The citrusy flavour of the oil of bergamot complements the chocolate in surprising ways.
6. Go green! Green tea with its slightly toasty and sweet tropical undertones is the perfect addition to a chocolate tasting party! I find that in general green teas pair best with white and milk chocolate.
Tea and chocolate are comfort foods for me. They both tap in to that emotional part of me. Do you have a similar relationship to one or both of these things?
As we head into the heart of summer, why not invite some friends over for a Tea and Chocolate Party? It could be an afternoon get-together on a rainy day or an evening garden party beneath the stars. However you decide to celebrate this brilliant pair, I hope you will find ways to pair chocolate and tea in new ways this summer. If you come across a combination that is especially earth-shattering, please share it with us in the comments section below! We'd love to hear your thoughts! If you are in Canada have a relaxing Canada Day weekend, and if you are in the United States, happy 4th of July!