Friday, March 22, 2013

Tea and Chocolate Tasting

Why should wine drinkers have all the fun? 

Priscilla and I decided to have a girls' fun night.  How about a tea and chocolate tasting?  

We have quality tea, how about some quality chocolates?  Stella Leona is a local Artisan Chocolate shop.  Nancy Bontrager, the owner, was exposed to fine European chocolates as a child.  She began making chocolates for friends and family, eventually opening her shop.  The name Stella Leona is taken from her grandmother Stella and her grandmother's sister Leona.
Priscilla making her selection.
After studying the Stella Leona website, I had decided on Key Lime White Chocolate, Mint Tea Truffles and Birch Cream Caramel.  I wanted a milk chocolate and while looking at the case, settled on the Honey Cinnamon Truffle.  And as a last minute addition, "How about a couple of the Lavender Fields?"  I purchased three of each, planning on one alone and then two different teas.  I had decided on teas for my first three choices prior to purchasing the chocolate.  When I returned home, I quickly picked a few from my cupboard to go along with the additional chocolates.  

Tea cart loaded with tea and chocolate tasting necessities.
Don't the chocolates look yummy!
Looking at all that chocolate, I decided to cut the pieces into quarters.  The first piece I tasted alone, the second with the first tea, the third with the second tea and the last one with a Muscatel Darjeeling tea.  (I decided to add a plain tea to taste with all the chocolates. I wanted to compare the same tea with various chocolate flavors.)

Tea Tasting Menu
In the following pictures, the first tea I tasted will be on the left as you look at the photo.  

First was lavender fields.  Alone it tasted like a smooth dark chocolate with a very faint hint of lavender.  Next, I tasted it with Victorian Earl Grey tea.  It mellowed the chocolate and intensified the bergamot.  The Strawberry Mint Lavender tea mellowed the dark chocolate, had a nice strawberry flavor, but still no lavender.  The Darjeeling made the chocolate more intense and had a hint of lavender.  I ranked the Victorian Earl Grey first, Strawberry Mint Lavender second and the Darjeeling third.

Second was the Mint Tea Truffle.  It had an intense spearmint flavor with mellow chocolate when tasted alone.  The mint green tea started with faint peppermint with a spearmint finish.  I detected no tea taste.  The Pai Mu Tan softened the mint, and had a lovely tea taste.  My favorite so far!  With the Darjeeling, I noticed more tea.  It softened the mint the most of any of these teas.  I would rank them Pai Mu Tan, Darjeeling, then Mint Green.

The Birch Cream Caramel deserves a bit of attention.  Birch syrup is produced in Alaska.  It takes 100 gallon of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup.  When Nancy tasted some birch syrup, she knew she had to develop a birch syrup chocolate.  This liquid caramel is the result.  Birch syrup has a bit more of a sorghum flavor than maple syrup.  Since this is a liquid caramel, I cut them in half instead of quarters.  Alone, this chocolate deserves to be savored.  I found it a bit more smokey than the maple syrup I am used to.  It really mellowed the dark chocolate.  The Vanilla Black tea made the flavors less intense, too much so for my liking.  The Maple Delight was yummy.  The Darjeeling was very good.  Tea sweetened with syrup would be delicious.  I would rank the Darjeeling first, Maple Delight second and Vanilla Black last.

The Honey Cinnamon Truffle was my favorite, but I am a milk chocolate person.  Alone, the chocolate started with cinnamon and mellowed into honey and finished with chocolate.  O'Connor's Cream blended all the flavors at once and instantly became my new favorite.  Then, I tried the Bossa Nova, which is an oolong.  Hands down the best so far!  I was immediately reminded of a Mose Hopper, an ice cream drink at Sam's Place in Blakslee, Ohio.  (They have the best steaks around!)  With the Darjeeling, the intense cinnamon flavor returned.  I would rank the Bossa Nova first, O'Connor's Cream second and Darjeeling last.

And the final chocolate was the key lime white chocolate.  Alone, it had just a hint of lime.  The Kaluna Lime tea brought out more lime flavor and then the creamy chocolate.  The tea had a bite alone, but not with the chocolate.  The Red Robe Oolong really brought out the lime flavor. A very late finish of white chocolate lingered on my tongue.  The Darjeeling brought out the lime flavor as well, but not to the extent of the oolong.  My rankings, Red Robe Oolong, Darjeeling and finally the Kaluna Lime.

My tasting notes
The ten teas used for tasting.  Starting on the left with the first tea used in my tasting, the Victorian Earl Grey and ending  on the right with the last tea, Red Robe Oolong.  I did not include the Darjeeling.  The dry tea leaves are on the bottom and the used tea leaves on the top.

Things to remember next time: 
- I enjoy flavored black teas and thought "twin" pairings, tea and chocolates with the same flavors, would be my favorite.  I found that I enjoyed the "sibling" pairings much better.  (Tea and chocolates that have their own nuances.)  I believe the unflavored teas paired better with the chocolates.  Sometimes I felt there was just too much going on.  
-Cutting the chocolates into smaller pieces worked well, except with the liquid filling.
-Brewing fresh water for each round of teas allowed time between tastings.  Crackers also helped cleanse the palate between strong chocolates. 
-Different chocolates with the same tea would also be fun.
-Take your time!  When you are enjoying good tea and fine chocolates, savor the experience. 

Priscilla and I spent so much time sipping tea and nibbling chocolates that the sun went down and the 11:00 news came on before we finished!
Our Ohio Sunset
I have wanted to do a tea and chocolate tasting for a long time.  Having Priscilla visit has been great incentive to do a lot of tea things that I had never done, or don't do on a regular basis.  This tasting has been one of my favorites!

Hope you give a tasting a try!
Sips and Smiles,


La Tea Dah said...

I enjoyed this educational post. The chocolate and tea pairings were lovely and you did a great job of defining your senses as you tasted and retasted each chocolate and tea. I enjoyed seeing how you set up your tasting and your rating system.

Marilyn said...

I totally loved this post. You have inspired me to do something like that for myself. The chocolates and the teas all sounded just amazing. Thanks so much!

relevanttealeaf said...

What a great experience! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post! I attended a tea and chocolate pairing at the World Tea Expo in Atlanta with Pearl Dexter facilitating, but it wasn't as extensive as yours.