We have an unofficial culture of chocolate here in our office — what started as a treat turned into quite the habit. Several times a week Richard comes back from lunch with a bar of chocolate he breaks up and leaves on the unfolded wrapper in the middle of our office, where we're all inevitably drawn to it, all afternoon long.
It has turned us into chocolate connoisseurs and label readers — there are now team members in our office who turn up their noses at anything less than 60 percent cacao. And forget almonds as a novel addition to your chocolate bar — we've indulged in dark chocolate that has included chunks of ginger, sea salt, orange peel, chiles and "popping candy," AKA Pop Rocks. (Richard thinks milk chocolate is a "sacrilege", so it's ironic that we're immune to being judged while eating a bar of chocolate that includes Pop Rocks.) Is it tough to share chocolate with eight people? Not with chocolate as high quality as the kinds we indulge in — when you just need one little piece. Most of the time.
So it's not much of a leap to realize that if we're surrounded by great tea all day long (and drinking it, all day long), we need to figure out what chocolate we'd like to have with which tea. And just for good measure, we threw in a couple of less-than-artisinal types of chocolate, since it is early November, otherwise known as the season of leftover Halloween candy. Our chocolate line-up is pictured here.
And then we decided that the two leaves™ tea we'd be pairing with chocolate would be Organic Assam Breakfast, Organic Mountain High Chai, Organic Tamayokucha, Jasmine Petal Green, Organic Darjeeling and Alpine Berry.
And just in case you think we're just a bunch of tea and chocolate junkies who wanted an excuse to indulge, I'll have you know we took this assignment quite seriously! We rotated through the chocolate and tea pairings taking notes and making comments, eating pretzel sticks to cleanse our palates, and each got a really weird sugar-caffeine buzz as a result. It didn't feel very good, honestly, but we'll do anything for you, dear tea blog readers.
A few ringers and duds from the results:
Organic Tamayokucha and 70 percent Dark Chocolate: A dud. The strong (yet delicious) chocolate totally overpowered this delicate green tea.
Organic Assam Breakfast and Hershey Cookies 'n' Cream: A surprising ringer! While this "chocolate" (white chocolate is not really chocolate - it's made from cocoa butter, milk and sugar) was too sweet for many of us, when you take a nibble (a very small nibble) immediately followed with black tea, it's like adding milk and honey to your tea. Again — it's pretty sweet, but also pretty good.
Jasmine Petal Green and Nestlé Crunch: See above. While this chocolate was deemed way too sweet by most of us, if you take the tiniest of bites of the chocolate and follow with a Jasmine Petal Green chaser, you'll get a unique flavor experience that's not unlike ordering dessert at a dim sum restaurant.
Organic Mountain High Chai and Dark Chocolate with Ginger: A mixed bag. Some of us liked the different spices mixed together (chai's cinnamon and clove with the chocolate's chunks of ginger) and some just found it overwhelmingly spicy.
Alpine Berry and Raspberry Dark Chocolate: Ding, ding, ding! A clear office favorite. The berry combination blew our socks off — Christy astutely pointed out that the sweet and fruity chocolate was the perfect accompaniment to the tart flavor of the hibiscus in our Alpine Berry.
A few extra notes:
* Richard loves desserts (including chocolate) paired with the subtle astringency of Organic Darjeeling. That said, pairing chocolate with a tea as nuanced as darjeeling is a tricky business. When we put this tea with moderately dark chocolate that included mint, most of us couldn't taste the tea. The same went for 70 percent dark chocolate -- Gigi loved it because she loves both dark chocolate and Darjeeling, but the rest of us felt the combo was overpowering. Could it be that when tasting these together, you really have to watch out for taking too big of a bite of chocolate?
* I won't tell you which combo elicited this reaction, but when Lindsay wrote "reminds me of a stinky cat house" on her tasting form, I almost laughed tea out of my nose.
* To each his or her own, clearly. We had a lot of fun combining chocolate and tea, and sometimes that's all that matters. Christy loved Organic Assam Breakfast with the Spicy Maya chocolate, but from what I heard, she was one of the few. If nothing else, she now knows that when the Spicy Maya bar of chocolate is calling her name from the expensive chocolate aisle of the supermarket, she'll think to put the kettle on before unwrapping it when she gets home.
Finally, a complete list of the chocolates we tasted, along with pertinent links if you want more info:
- Hershey's Cookies 'n' Cream
- Nestlé Crunch
- Madecasse Sea Salt & Nibs - 63 percent dark chocolate
- Divine 70 percent Dark Chocolate
- Chuao Chocolatier Spicy Maya
- 365 Everyday Value Organic Milk Chocolate (from Whole Foods)
- Green & Black's Organic Mint Dark Chocolate - 60 percent Cacao content
- Chocolove Ginger Crystalized in Dark Chocolate - 65 percent Cocoa content
- Chocolove Raspberries in Dark Chocolate - 55 percent Cocoa content
So now you've gotta tell us: Do you ever sip tea and eat your favorite chocolate at the same time? Give us the details, so we can try it ourselves!