The marriage of chocolate and tea was first exposed to me about 10 years ago in a cute café that offered an extensive list of teas.
As I was just beginning my tea love affair, the thought of combining such a beloved, delicious flavor with the soothing, seemingly tamer beverage had never crossed my mind. The chocolate tea tasted good, but it didn’t seem enough like either chocolate or tea. I brushed it off as more of a novelty, something I could find in fancy teahouses but not in the real world.
As the years went on, I was proven wrong — chocolate tea has become more mainstream and has branched out into many different forms and flavors. But just as I was growing accustomed to the idea of chocolate as a part of tea, I was thrown another curveball: tea as a part of chocolate.
Early this fall, Shangri-La Tea, a California-based tea company, released a line of chocolate bars infused with tea. With flavors Earl Grey, Chamomile Mint, Masala Chai and Black Currant, the collection stretched a range of tea preferences. Could it be? My two favorite things, combined to create one godly creation? Yet I remained skeptical as to how much the flavors would actually be reflected in the bars, especially with chocolate being so overpowering.
I went for the Masala Chai first, and was in for a great surprise. While the bars do note they are “handcrafted with real tea leaves,” I wasn’t expecting the tea to actually be a part of the piece of chocolate. On top of the chocolate square were real pieces of black tea leaves, along with bits of ginger and cardamom; it was as if someone scattered a scoop of chai tea onto the chocolate.
And it tasted like it, too, to my surprise. Rather than the light chai spice flavor I was expecting, it came at me at full force. It actually did taste like chai. I happen to have a box of chocolate chai tea at home, and it was quite similar but with both the chocolate and the chai flavors being even bolder.
The other flavors were less strong, but still equally accurate representations. It got me thinking — why isn’t it more popular to consume tea as pieces of chocolate? There are several small companies that produce tea-infused chocolate, but it hasn’t been picked up by any major sellers like chocolate-flavored tea has. The ones I tried were certainly delicious and, though I am admittedly biased as a tea lover, offer flavors that can produce an exciting new twist to the chocolate market.
Chocolate and tea at least seem perfect for each other. Who doesn’t love chocolate? And, although the American public prefers coffee as its hot beverage of choice, tea does hold a respected image of being great for the mind and body. The high amount of antioxidants in some teas matches the antioxidant content in chocolate; both can help prevent heart disease and cancers and promote general well-being.
As the good properties of chocolate come to light and pull it away from the darkness of only being labeled a guilty pleasure, tea can only help. Pairing the two in a way that does justice to them both — such as using real tea leaves (and real chocolate in chocolate tea) instead of just a flavor — let’s both shine in a new light. Tea can be delicious and innovative, and chocolate can be healthful and dignified.
Is tea the next flavor frontier for chocolate? Only time will tell, but I hope so. This match could certainly use some national exposure. Cuppa chocolate, anyone?
Read more: Shangri La Chocolate