Two things people are serious about are chocolate and tea. For chocolate lovers, a bar is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up, a coping mechanism after a terrible day, or a reward for a job well done. Tea lovers enjoy their favorite cup for many of the same reasons, but it’s not often we think of consuming the two together.
If you love them both, then you’re in luck! This guide will provide the basics for pairing your favorite cocoa-infused candy with your favorite hot beverage whether it’s for a movie night alone at home or an afternoon party with guests.
Like wine, teas have many different flavor profiles to suit virtually any palate. Also, like pairing wine with food, pairing tea with chocolate requires a bit of strategy. You can choose a tea that complements the flavor notes in the chocolate, or you can pair to mitigate or tamp down a particular characteristic. The goal is to create a tasting experience unlike any other pairings and that reveals new and exciting tasting notes.
What is Cacao?
Before we jump into pairings, it is important to know a little more about chocolate’s origin. Cacao is cocoa that is raw and minimally processed. Pods from cacao trees in South America, West Africa, and some parts of Asia are harvested and through a multi-step process are turned into our favorite decadent treats. After the process of fermenting, drying, roasting, extracting, and grinding, a non-alcoholic liquor is produced. Cocoa butter, the primary ingredient in a candy bar or box of Russel Stover's is extracted from the liquor. What’s left is dried and ground into cocoa powder. The amount of cacao liquor used determines how dark the chocolate is and the percentage of cacao in the product. The kind we are most familiar with becomes your favorite candy bar through the addition of cocoa butter, sugar, cacao liquor, and powdered or condensed milk.
Milk chocolate is the kind most familiar to Americans and the western world. It typically has between 10% and 40% cacao. Because of the creaminess, teas that go well with milk are good choices, though you probably don’t want to add milk to the tea when you are tasting this variety. Black teas like Earl Grey, English Breakfast, Chai or similar are excellent choices. Blends that include fruit, nuts, and spices may also be good choices. Think of combinations like raspberries, strawberries, oranges, and almonds. If you prefer green teas, try a Japanese sencha, which is a stronger green tea, but only slightly astringent.
White chocolate is characterized by its sweetness and low cacao percentage. High-quality versions are not only sweet, but smooth and creamy. When pairing teas with white chocolate, avoid adding sweeteners to your cup and consider flavors traditionally found in a white chocolate bar or truffle. Nutty and fruity tasting notes, coconut, and lemon are likely good selections. Our Nutty Green loose leaf, 901-of-A-Kind Coconut Almond (black tea), or Memphis Meadow Lemon Cream (rooibos) are examples that would be excellent pairings with white chocolate.
As discussed, Dark chocolate has the highest percentage of cacao, typically higher than 40%. For example, we have recently introduced two Ritual chocolate bars each boasting 70% cacao - The Fleur De Sel with French sea salt and the Mid Mountain, which is a blend of cacao from a variety of origins. These bars, like other high-quality ones, are rich, bitter, and full of fruity flavor notes. Suggestions for pairing include a full-bodied Indian Assam, a Margaret’s Hope Darjeeling with its hints of cocoa and fruity muscatel, or the Raspberry Vanilla rooibos.
Most Important Part
Have fun! The flavor combinations are almost endless. Make a mistake? Simply try again. After all you’re tasting chocolate and tea, so how bad could it really be? To get an idea for the variety of options, visit our website, read the descriptions of our teas and easily and safely purchase in our online store.