Once you enter into the tea art journey, you will have an opportunity to discover a wonderful world of flavours from sweet fruit to earthy wood that is inherent within different tea types. These flavours can be beautifully married with different types of food to either complement the flavours in food or to provide a delicious contrast. Since I’ve worked with Tea sommeliers, I realise that art of tea is not only indulging in tea ceremony, but it is also an application of tea in making foods and cocktails.
With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I was required to write a blog about tea and chocolate pairing guide for my company, but I think this topic is quite interesting to share it with my readers as well. It took me a week to go through some amazing researches and writings of tea and chocolate masters on the Internet. The idea of pairing tea and chocolate is not too new. When I was in high school, a trend of combining tea-and-chocolate in desserts from the country of Rising Sun arrived to my town which later on become very popular in Saigon. The flavourful combinations of tea and chocolates will lead to the most indulgent multi-sensory experience you have ever had, because tea and chocolate share health benefits and flavour qualities including caffeine, flavonoids and tannins when consuming together.
1. Black Tea.
Black tea makes an easy choice to pair with most of the chocolates, which usually yields a medium to full-bodied liquor with a good amount of astringency in order to interact well with the rich texture and sweetness of chocolates.
Keemun has been recognised as one of the world’s best black teas, which produces a lovely coppery brew with a sweet and floral aroma and a winy, fruity flavour. Keemun tea is such a perfect match with dark chocolate or dark chocolate flourless tortes.
The combination of Pu-erh tea and chocolate sounds very inciting. Pu-erh is a fermented tea grown on ancient 500-year-old organic tea trees in Yunnan, China, which has a bold, earthy flavour and is smooth with slightly sweet hints of malt. Pu-erh’s rich earthiness is a natural pairing for the matching characteristics of chocolate because both chocolate and Pu-erh have strong, deep flavours and an exotic richness that is unsurpassed by other ingredients.
With a lovely balance between a refreshing and bright Keemun tea, citrus notes and oil of bergamot, Earl Grey Black Tea offers enough sweetness for dark chocolate with pronounced citrusy notes.
Besides, Yunnan tea has a woody earthy aroma with a touch of malt and honey, also works well with the intensity of very dark or milk chocolates.
2. Oolong tea.
Oolong Teas are known as “semi-oxidised” teas. It means that the oxidation process is not allowed to go to completion as in the case of black or “fully-oxidised” tea. Oolong teas are greatly appreciated by tea connoisseurs, due to their complex character and often distinct fruity, nutty and even floral flavours and aromas. Because oolongs are somewhere between green and black teas, they often exhibit the delightful freshness of green teas and the enticing maturity of fully oxidised teas.
Tie Guan Yin can pair pretty well with cocoa that has pleasant floral notes, with subsequent infusions shifting the flavour profile towards herbs and buttery beans.
3. Green tea.
Lung ching (Dragonwell) – a popular Chinese green tea – is characterised by its gorgeous chestnut, hazelnut and macadamia notes and it is an excellent pair for white chocolate.
Although Chinese specialise in producing green tea, Japanese Green Tea is even more remarkable, from my perspective. Japanese Matcha is a perfect match with white chocolate as its extreme bitterness directly contrasts the sweetness of white chocolate. When blended, the creaminess of the pairing is spot on and offsets the tannic bitterness of the matcha, while cutting through the sweetness of the white chocolate. This combination will create a really luxurious mouthfeel that can explain the increase of using white chocolate and culinary grade matcha in the modern world of desserts.
Another tea suggestion for a successful combination with milk chocolate is Genmaicha (or called as ‘rice tea’), which is a combination of green Sencha, roasted grains rice and popped rice. This distinct Japanese tea has bright golden infusion and nutty, slightly savoury flavour which contrasts the milkiness of white and milk chocolates.