Tea and chocolate: unusual bedfellows

Tea in a white cup

Tea and chocolate. More daddy or chips than port and Stilton surely? That’s what I thought as I wended my sticky and hot way through sunbaked Fitzrovia trying to find Tapped and Packed, where I was to participate in a tea, coffee and chocolate matching evening run by Green & Blacks.

Coffee and chocolate, that I could see. They’ve closed the curtains on a multitude of meals from Turkish grills to Aussie seafood. I just couldn’t see fine teas standing up to a deep and bitter 75% cocoa dark chocolate. Just goes to show how much I know.

One of the reasons these sort of events are fun is that you get to hear from people who really know their stuff. in this case Micah Carr-Hill from Green & Blacks who fed us titbits like the fact cocoa beans are cut with banana leaves to start the fermentation process, or that the human tongue can detect particles 20 microns wide.

We also heard from Timothy D’Offay of Postcard Teas, and Victor Frankowski of Tapped and Packed who took us through their coffees, mostly while whizzing in wired way around behind his coffee machine arms waving and eyes whirling. This was someone who clearly loved what he did (and drank a LOT of coffee).

Chocolate

What blew me away was the effect combining of black and green teas with chocolate. It caused some sort of taste explosion. Of particular note was Master Xu’s Rou Gui oolong which tasted a little fruity, but when combined with chocolate opened up all these new layers of flavour like a flower opening to the sun.

Along with the usual nutty, slightly sweet tea flavours, I could taste fruit and herbs, an underlying deliciously smooth bitterness from the chocolate – everything complemented and improved on everything else. It was a most unexpected and delightful experience.

Sencha leaves

That was the best of the bunch, but it was by no means the only good match. A strong Sencha lost it’s pondy flavour and became grassy and herbasceous with the addition of a creamy milk chocolate and a smooth black clean coffee blended¬†beautifully¬†into a perfectly bitter sweet digestif.

So thank you Gail of One Million Gold Stars for inviting me along to what turned out to be something of a revelatory evening.

14 Responses to “Tea and chocolate: unusual bedfellows”

  1. Sarah, Maison Cupcake

    Great post, unlike me you were evidently listening properly as I was a bit zonked out by the heat and having difficulty formulating any opinion beyond umm, this stuff melts doesn’t it.

    Lovely to meet you at last!

  2. Matcha Chocolat

    Hey Grubworm, great insight into how tea and chocolate compliment one another!

    Seems their combination really works by revealing and enhanceing their respective subtleties of flavour. You end up tasting all the nuances of flavour in the tea and chocolate, but in a more pronouned way.

    I just loved the bit where you said that tea “when combined with chocolate opened up all these new layers of flavour like a flower opening to the sun.” Beautifully said and very true!

  3. Mr Noodles

    Very informative post as other than having the occasional Kit-Kat with a cuppa, I’ve not really thought about tea and chocolate as a combo before.

    That said, I’ve always preferred tea (esp. Chinese tea) to round off a meal. It cuts through the grease and doesn’t keep you awake.

  4. The Grubworm

    @Sarah – heh – the tea woke me up somewhat ;-) And it was good to meet you face to face as well :-)

    @Matcha Chocolat – thanks! The combo was a total surprise to me, i had eaten chocolate with your standard cuppa before, but never leaf tea without milk. What a surprise. I agree that they work to magnify the nuances of each other. Lovely stuff.

    @Mr Noodles – thanks, like i said to Matcha above, it was a complete surprise. I know what you mean about Chinese tea – it is a good way to round off a meal to leave you feeling fresh rather than wired.

  5. The London Foodie

    Wow what a fantastic tasting, and so informative. I am even more gutted now after reading your review that I could not go, but hopefully Gail will be putting another tasting on soon. Great write up.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  6. Tom

    That sounds awesome.

    One thing which all the coffee joints keep saying I should go to (or gone to) was Tea Smith as apparently it is an amazing experience.

    I really enjoyed the chocs and coffee combo at Penny University but have never thought of it with tea (well apart from high tea).

    Really interesting

  7. Leluu

    Such an great write up! I’ve got writer envy now!
    To be honest, I got more info here than there as I couldn’t really hear anything. All I know was that I was tasting some pretty yum tea with some pretty yum chocs! Its amazing to combine the two if you know what you are doing and those boys looked like they were totally on form!
    Next time, I am sitting with you – you’re like the goodie two shoes in class that I am going to copy off : )

  8. The Grubworm

    @The London Foodie – it was pretty good. The whole tea chocolate thing was amazing, particularly the matching with green and oolong.

    @Tom – it was pretty good, made me want to explore the world of tea even more that I have been already. Tea Smith is on my list too. Penny University is somewhere i really want to try out, but i seem to remember it was only temporary.

    @Leluu – thanks! Although i was less goodie two shoes than annoying elbow-poker as i found my way to the front ;-) Those guys were on pretty good form weren’t they – and their names – so suitable. I still haven;t made a dent in all that chocolate they sent home with us though.

  9. Tom

    I think Penny is gone at the end of this month. Take a long lunch or go straight after work and go. I found it fairly inspiring.

    Interesting that it is a pop up. I went a couple of times in the first week and that wasn’t made apparent… Shame.

  10. The Grubworm

    @Tom – I’m gone at the end of the month too, so must try and get along to Penny University before we both disappear.

  11. shayma

    a really fascinating tasting. i would have never thought of this combo on my own. will you be eating this regularly now? ;)

  12. The Grubworm

    @shayma – it was really interesting tasting, each element brought out the flavours of the other It was like a virtuous circle of tasting. It’s certainly something I’ll explore more. I’m wondering how an oolong tea and dark chocolate mousse might taste…?

  13. shayma

    mmmm that sounds gorgeous! you must create a recipe for it and blog about it. if we can make chocolate coffee mousse why not with oolong? waiting for the post…. x shayma

  14. The Grubworm

    @shayma – maybe I will, but not till i have a little more time in September I think… I was also wondering about a white chocolate, vanilla and tea mousse. Hmmmm. That could be tasty.

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