With the arrival of Valentine’s Day, we can’t help but think of one thing….. chocolate! Chocolate and tea are both wonderful on their own and make a perfect match when paired together as we discovered exploring various combinations with delicious pure chocolate from bean-to-bar maker Pump Street.
At first, trying to work out which tea to pair with chocolate can seem like an intimidating prospect. Where to start? There are so many different types of teas, and so many types of chocolate. But as we found out, when it comes to any pairing, experience is the best teacher – and that means drinking lots of tea while tasting lots of chocolate.
The great thing about chocolate is that it goes with a wide variety of teas, and vice versa. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong and it’s completely subjective. That said, there are just a few things to keep in mind when deciding what to combine:
- Single origin chocolate pairs best with single origin tea
Whilst it’s possible to use any chocolate when pairing with tea, the most satisfying pairings come from combining single origin chocolate with single origin tea. Like fine tea, artisanal chocolate made from quality cacao beans will have deeper flavour and more complexity than mainstream industrial chocolate.
This is because the origin of the beans, how they have been grown, then blended and roasted will often have an impact on the aroma, the flavour, and the texture. In contrast, industrial chocolate is mostly a blend of commodity grade beans that are bought in bulk for price and not quality, which are then combined with additives (such as vegetable oil, corn syrup, glucose, or sugar for example) that suppress nuanced flavours.
For the purposes of our tea pairing experiment, we used chocolate from Pump Street, an artisanal craft chocolate producer that scouts the world for the best beans. Very much like Karma Tea, Pump Street works directly with small-scale growers around the world. They source cacao from countries like Ecuador, Jamaica, and Madagascar, bringing the beans back to the UK for roasting and grinding.
- The stronger the chocolate, the softer a tea should be
Generally, when pairing tea with extra dark chocolate (at least 80% cacao), the stronger the chocolate, the softer and rounder a tea should be. Very dark chocolate will often have bitter notes and strong bean flavours that are stronger on the palate than any other type of chocolate. For this reason, it’s also worth avoiding very mild, delicate teas, as they will be overpowered by the cacao.
We found that our Silk Cloud tea, which is a smooth, floral black tea from Northeast India worked nicely with the intensity of Pump Street’s high percentage (85%) bar from Ecuador. This chocolate has a full-bodied aroma and with notes of cut grass, toasted walnut and rich earthiness. When tried together, the tea becomes softer, rounder, sweeter and the chocolate more becomes smoother and brighter. We also enjoyed our Glacier Green tea from Nepal with the intensity of this very dark chocolate.
- With a lower percentage chocolate, try a brisker tea
For slightly milder chocolate with a lower cacao percentage, the more astringent a tea you can get away. We found that Pump Street’s 66% bar with sourdough and seasalt which is smooth and malty was divine with a strong full-bodied tea like our Amba Ceylon which is a brisk black tea from Sri Lanka with citrus and toffee notes.
Dark chocolate also contrasts well with sweet and spicy and can take bolder flavours without being overshadowed. For this reason, our Shangri-La Oolong and Himalayan Gold tea from Nepal, with their rich, spicy notes and intense flavour worked really well with Pump Street’s 75% bar from Ecuador. In contrast, we found that the taste of our white tea was too subtle with this tea.
- Milk chocolate, the most versatile with tea
Milk chocolate is perhaps the most versatile when it comes to tea pairing. This kind of chocolate can be enjoyed with most round soft black teas. It’s also worth taking advantage of the chocolate’s milky character to pair with teas that have more astringency.
We found that Pump’s Street milk chocolate (58%) bar which is a creamy chocolate made with whole milk and zesty beans from Madagascar, worked perfectly with our New Day Assam, a classic black tea from India. When paired together, the tea’s malty notes with its hints of plums are taken to another level.
Another great combination with milk chocolate is chai. We discovered that the light sweetness of Pump Street’s bar combined perfectly with our Kolkata Chai, a blend of black tea and masala spices when we prepared it the traditional way with milk and sugar.
Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in the intricacies of pairing, ultimately, the proof of the pudding is in eating. You can’t go wrong with using high quality tea and chocolate as a starting point. So, explore for yourself and enjoy the journey!
Discover the Karma Tea/ Pump Street taster box here.