I thought I was due for another tea and chocolate tasting, so I emailed the people at Rishi Tea, since I am such a fan of their Silver Needle with Jasmine, and they sent me a few samples.
As I wended my way through this tasting it became apparent that some teas offered complementary flavors to the chocolates and others were contrasting. I am not being euphemistic: contrasting doesn’t mean competing. Typically, I would think of gentle teas, like Silver Needle, and other whites, as complementary, while flavored teas might contrast. It was interesting to see the exceptions to my theory, where a tea flavor enhances a chocolate flavor, like mint with mint.
I chose teas with low or no caffeine since I didn’t want more of a buzz than the chocolate already offers.
The first up was Rishi’s Honeydew Melon with organic white tea, natural melon flavor, and jasmine flowers. This has a less pronounced Jasmine flavor than the Silver Needle I mentioned earlier, and the melon is a subtext, not the dominant theme. It was stunning with Amano’s 30% Ocumare (a chocolate I wasn’t crazy about when I first tried it, but it worked fabulously with this tea), A+ with a 2007 Valrhona Palmira (64%), A+ with Slitti’s 62% Latte Nero (dark milk), and equally delicious with Theo’s Orange 70% bar. I wasn’t as thrilled with it when paired with Beschle’s Grand Cru Rio Huimbi (40%) , or Theo’s Mint. On the other hand, it was lovely with Theo’s Almond Cherry bar, also 70%.
Next up was Rishi’s Organic Wild Rose, with white tea, organic roses, and natural rose flavor. This is just beautiful to look at and produces a pink tea that is very pretty in a white cup. The scent transports you to an English tea garden. I was concerned it would be perfume-y, and compete with the chocolate, but it wasn’t. It was actually subtle–perfect for Valrhona’s Palmira. Interestingly, it was reminiscent of a Victoria Rose Cream candy when paired with Slitti’s Latte Nero 62%, Amano’s Ocumare 30%, and Beschle’s 40%. There was a bit of competition with Theo’s Cherry and Almond 70%, their Mint 70%, and their Orange 70%. Clearly those flavored chocolates were too dominant for this rose tea.
Last but not least, was their Organic Peppermint Rooibos with Bergamot. The rooibos rounded out the flavor of the mint, giving it body that herbal mint teas lack. Theo’s Mint bar just sang with joy when eaten with this tea. The two mints enhanced each other for an intense, but not over-the-top experience. Slitti’s dark creaminess enhanced the tea, and vice-versa. Ditto for the Amano, and the Beschle. It was as if the tea added some edginess to the chocolate and the chocolate added a wonderful richness to the tea.
I could never have predicted these outcomes if I hadn’t taken the time to experiment. Try making a few different teas and tasting them with whatever chocolates you happen to have lying around. It’s an interesting experience full of gustatory surprises.