Have you ever considered pairing chocolate with tea? Admittedly, I haven’t! Last week, I was invited by popular tea brand, Whittard, to a chocolate and tea pairing session. They have paired up with premium Belgian chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini, to host this exclusive tasting event, teaching us the art of luxury chocolate making and how tea can compliment with chocolate.
Before diving into details of the event, I just wanted to say I’ve always been a fan of Whittard’s teas. Whittard is home to over 100 strong tea collections. I have only tried a handful, but my favourite so far is their Piccadilly Blend, which I’ve kept a massive tin of it at home. What I loved about that particular blend is its floral fragrance with a delicate mix of rose, strawberry and lotus flavours into a classic black tea. And that’s what they do best in my opinion – creating all these delicious and creative flavour blends!
To start with the evening, we started with a glass of cold brew tea, with a fruity flavour and strawberry infusion, while tea expert Katy sheds some knowledge to all of us about tea. And then shortly after, special guests from luxury chocolatier Pierre Marcolini began to talk us through the process of proper chocolate making.
Chocolatier vs Confectionery
First thing emphasised had been the difference between a chocolatier and a confectionery. What I came to learn is that, despite the vast amount of chocolate shops (think of the likes of Godiva), are actually regarded as confectioneries but not chocolatiers. Confectionery is the art of making confections; whereas a Chocolatier is the art of the chocolate itself, including growing their own cocoa.
Not only is Pierre Marcolini one of the few actual chocolatiers, they also pride themselves on sourcing and roasting the cocoa beans themselves, and run a bean-to-bar model for their products.
They even brought some cocoa beans to the event as well and they crushed some for us to take a whiff. From there, we were taken on a little chocolate-tasting journey, featuring a range of chocolates, with each paired with a hand-picked selection of Whittard’s tea.
Chocolate Percentage vs Sweetness
To kick start things, we’re given three different pieces of plain chocolates to taste. The purpose of this is to show us that the percentage of a piece of chocolate doesn’t actually determine the bitterness of it.
We were first given a 78% Venezuelan dark chocolate, and a 78% Ecuadorian one next. Both were distinctly bitter, but with their own very unique flair despite growing from the same type of bean. Afterwards, the one we had was significantly sweeter, with a richer and more full-bodied taste. That very piece of chocolate was a mix of Ecuadorian and Cameroon cocoa, and was actually of 85% chocolate. The point of this is to show it’s all about the art of growing cocoa and creating chocolates. And with all this knowledge in mind, we now dove into the chocolate pairing part of the evening.
Ganache Violette x Chelsea Garden Tea
The Chocolate: a Violet bonbon, with a soft violet ganache with bursts of Violette.
The Tea: one of Whittard’s signature white peony tea blend – consisting English garden rose buds and hints of wild berries.
The Violet chocolate flavour was created in 1998 as one of Pierre Marcolini’s ‘childhood memory flavours’ range. We were instructed to first hold our nose at our first bite, and then release our fingers once it’s in the mouth. Amazingly, as you release your hand over your nose, a wave of floral flavours began to awake all your senses. With such a sweet floral edge, Whittard’s Chelsea Garden Tea blend had been the perfect pairing to it.
Each sip of the tea was like a taste of spring and oozes a beautiful floral fragrance. Very much like spring itself, the tea was very refreshing – clean to taste and a burst of both floral & fruity touches. It cleanses the palate and really enabled the Violette Chocolate to flaunt its flavours. It’s genuinely like a little spring garden party in the mouth!
Cœur Seduction x Rhubarb Punch
The chocolate: A white chocolate pulp with a fresh raspberry ganache & filled with raspberry puree
The tea: a punchy fruity infusion – consisting rhubarb with elderberries, whole apple pieces and bright hibiscus
Need inspiration for a Valentines Day gift? Cœur Seduction, where the word “Cœur” translates as heart, might just be the perfect one. This is one of Pierre Marcolini’s signatures – with its iconic heart shape and a bright red ganache over it.
Whilst the concept of incorporating fruit into chocolate has always been regarded as a risky business, Pierre Marcolini might have mastered that peculiar balance and technique in order to make it work. The use of white chocolate has been crucial to this creation as the sugary sweetness was much needed to complement with the tangy fruity flavours. The most delightful part of all, in my opinion, was how the hint of raspberry lingers a bit in the mouth without being overpowering at all.
Pairing this chocolate with the Rhubarb Punch tea was an impeccable match. White chocolate generally tastes quite rich and the tea acted as the perfect balance. In contrast to the full-bodied chocolate, the tea has a more mellow effect with its blend of elderberries, whole apple pieces, bright hibiscus, as well as strawberry & blackberry leaves.
Palet Or x Garden Party Oolong Tea
The chocolate: A smooth caramel ganache and coulis flavoured with Vanilla, coated in dark chocolate
The tea: A traditional Oolong tea laced with passionfruit, papaya, strawberry, pineapple, and orange marigold petals
Though I’m not a tea connoisseur, since Oolong tea is originated in Asia, it’s a tea I’m slightly more familiar with. Oolong tea has a very distinctive roasty nutty touch so I did frown over the idea of flavoured Oolong tea as I couldn’t really imagine any flavour infusion that could possibly work. Nonetheless, I kept an open mind as that’s the point of this event, and found myself having a new profound appreciation on Oolong tea. The Garden Party Oolong Tea, with its subtle fruity infusion, actually brought out a very interesting flavour profile. It’s almost like a summery vibe – very fitting to the name, Garden Party, for this particular flavour blend.
The slight bitter nature of Oolong tea was also impeccably fitting with the sweet luscious caramel ganache from the chocolate. Personally, I’ve always been hesitant over caramel with chocolate – it just tends to be too sweet for me. However, this one’s quite cleverly balanced by the use of a dark chocolate coating.
Praliné Calin fondant x Chilli Mango Tea
The chocolate: Almond praline filling, Quimper flaky wafer and caramel blended with fresh Tahitian vanilla
The tea: A black tea base blended with zesty mango, amaranth, cactus blossoms, and a sprinkle of chilli
Of all the chocolates we’ve had for the evening, this one’s my favourite. To me, the Praliné Calin fondant screams delicate & classic. I particularly loved the crunchy texture in there, which came as a delightful surprise. It was simply the perfect balance of sweetness with an absolutely fragrant creamy touch.
Despite lots of hesitation over the tea, I actually really enjoyed it after managing to take a sip of it. It’s quite a tangy blend, which filled you with a mango aroma, and later gives you a little kick of chilli! Mango is certainly not my cup of tea, but the flavours were very cleverly balanced without it being overly fruity. And I particularly enjoyed that punch of chilli, which sends a very warming sensation down your stomach while at the same time refreshing to the palate. Pairing it with the Praliné Calin fondant creates quite an exotic contrast.
So that’s all the chocolate for the evening (even though I wanted more of course!). After all this, I’ve had a new appreciation for both chocolate and tea tasting.
Before we left, we were given goody bags consisting of Pierre Marcolini’s signature chocolate box, as well as Whittard’s Easter Tea (a chocolatey Oolong with sugar bunnies!) and their Lemon Meringue Hot Chocolate mix.
Summing up, I’ve really enjoyed this event hosted by Whittard! Who would’ve thought there’s so much work behind simply growing cocoa – it was just so fascinating to learn the art of luxury chocolate making and how tea could come into play as flavour pairing. Plus I got to eat chocolate for the entire evening – what’s there to not like, right?!
All in all, I highly recommend checking out Whittard‘s range of tea selections. If you visit their Covent Garden branch (especially the one downstairs at the Market Hall section), there are lots of tea samples to try out before buying – that’s how I first got hooked up with the brand and ended up being a regular customer! Go have a play and let me know your favourite flavour from them.