Even though we work around chocolate all day at Rococo, there’s always more to learn and experience. Christina, one of our Assistant Managers, particularly loves exploring new combinations, so we sent her to a tasting evening at our Marylebone store. This is her report.
Since working for Rococo, I have been on a sensuous journey through the world of taste, continuously learning, and this evening was no exception. An evening of tea and chocolate pairings held at Rococo’s Moxon Street venue created more than just an exploration of taste. It was a journey deep into my favourite question of all: why do certain flavours work so well together and how do we find that perfect combination that compliments all of the senses? Tonight, I felt I was a little bit closer to understanding this creative endeavour.
There were six of us in attendance for the tasting which created a lovely calm and relaxed atmosphere. Very cosy! It was easy to share our ideas and thoughts about what we were trying together in this setting. Hosted by our very own pairings expert, Sam Smallman and Kusmi Tea, we tried five teas alongside a white tea that acted as a palate cleanser.
Some teas were very delicate and lightly fragranced whereas other varieties were intensely aromatic and bursting with flavour. It is always worth keeping in mind that many factors influence the taste of chocolate and tea (and many other foods for that matter): how it is grown and cultivated, the influences of climate and even natural disasters affect the production and availability of the food we eat. It is a true privilege granted to us by nature that we can experience the senses in such a wonderful way, and this should always be remembered.
The first tea we tried was Bouquet of Flowers No. 108, a black tea flavoured with bergamot with many different citrus and flowery notes. I had always thought Earl Grey tea slightly boring, but this took me by surprise. The chocolate pairing for this tea was an absolute favourite of mine, the Salted Caramelised Almonds and Rosemary Milk Chocolate Artisan Bar. When combined, the added salt helped to bring out the more delicate flavours and enhanced the subtle fruity notes that I felt were lost in the tea alone, making this a highly successful combination.
The second pairing was ‘Green St Petersburg’ with White Chocolate and Cardamom Artisan Bar and the Blackcurrant and Violet Ganache. This was an overwhelmingly strong and aromatic black tea that seemed to want to take centre stage with the chocolate pairings, creating a struggle for supremacy between nuances of flavour without any one emerging as the predominant taste. The cardamom in white chocolate is especially strong for me and this, paired with the fruitier and more citrus notes found in the tea seemed to create a bass note of vanilla which permeated the throughout. The Blackcurrant and Violet Ganache came through more strongly, and acted once more as a foundation for the lighter and more floral notes found in the tea.
I have always stayed away from Lapsang Souchong as the taste of smoke puts me off, but I have to admit that has changed for good. I am gradually becoming more adventurous! When I smelled the Lapsang Souchong No. 210 tea leaves, I was instantly hit with the smoke and I really felt as though I didn’t want to try it at all, though I am very glad I did. This tea was paired with the Salted Toffee Crunchy Praline Ganache, which seemed to help filter and reduce the intensity. It was an almost savoury combination, with the nutty taste of the praline grounding the smokiness to a level where it doesn’t permeate all of the senses. This pairing was very well combined as a consequence, and the salt seemed to help create a focal point for the palate to experience every aspect of flavour.
The Tarry Souchong is another black tea smoked over wood, sweeter and not as intense as Lapsang. This was paired with the Grenadian Islay Single Malt Ganache, an excellent choice as the tea helped to enhance the flavour of the whisky. I am not a massive fan of any whisky and in the case of this particular ganache, I am usually put off by the smell (once again!) As this tea was quite sweet though, it lessened the intensity of the smoke and complemented the flavours in both pairings. When this tea was paired with the Arabic Spices Dark Chocolate Artisan Bar, it took me back years ago to sitting in front of a log fire on a drizzling grey day in the Scottish Highlands with my family, snug as a bug in a rug, an evocative and comforting experience which created a lost nostalgia for summer camping holidays. The spices came through most strongly, which surprised me a little as I had expected the flavour of the whisky to be filtered through the most and focused mainly on the top of my palate. For some reason it was the other way round instead. Very surprising!
The last tea we tried was the BB Detox paired with the Grenada 71% Salty-licious Bar and the Passionfruit and Rosemary Caramel. This tea was like tasting a bowl of sunshine. It was a very mellow tea with subtle fruity notes of orange and mango. This was my favourite pairing as there were so many different flavour sensations. With the 71% Salty-licious bar, the salt helped to draw out an undercurrent of citrus notes which I mostly experienced at the back of the palate. When it was combined with the tangy sharpness of the Passionfruit and Rosemary Caramel, it created what I could only describe as an explosion of colours in my mouth. Sweet, sour, everything you could think of. It worked fantastically well and for the first time this year, it really did feel like summer had arrived!
The tasting was very well received by everyone and there was an appreciation for how effectively the pairings worked together. After experiencing what could almost be described as a ‘feel good high’ after trying so many amazing flavour combinations, I came to the following conclusion – individual flavours have the ability to combine to become so much more than the sum of their parts. As notes in a symphony resound together in harmony to create a masterpiece, flavours also have the ability to come together to create something entirely new and we certainly experienced that this evening.
That’s what I love about creative vision – whether it is in food, music or art or anything for that matter, there are endless possibilities and we should always expect to encounter the magic of the unexpected in every instance.
Tea photograph image credit: Kusmi Tea