You all know my love of cheese runs veeeery deep, and no good gathering is complete without it! But what about cheese, chocolate and tea? Alexis from TeaspoonsandPetals.com is showing us how to plan a decadent AND simple afternoon tea!
Happier Hour: Tea, Chocolate and Cheese Pairings
The hectic hustle and bustle of the holidays are well behind us, and we’re ready to set the tone for this new year. I intend to make more time for long, leisurely visits with those I hold near and dear to my heart in the comfort of my home. But before friends begin to arrive and cocktail glasses start clinking, consider hosting a happier hour of sorts with tea, cheese and chocolate pairings.
This modern take on afternoon tea leaves fussy treats at the door, and instead calls for wedges of cheese and bars of chocolate that can be easily unwrapped as the kettle sings on the stove. And not that you need a reason to celebrate, but January happens to be National Hot Tea Month and January 20th is National Cheese Lovers Day (go all out and gather various wedges to make the shape of a cake…the very best kind of cheese cake in my book). And there’s no need to haul out over-the-top platters and tiers, as a collection of cheese boards and mismatched vintage plates give it a casually elegant vibe.
Let’s consider why this trio of steeped selections, cocoa confections and dairy delights are truly better together. Swap the wine glasses for teacups, but apply the same pairing principles. You will either want to pick teas, cheese and chocolate with similar flavor profiles that enhance one another (think an earl grey with citrusy notes of bergamot to pair with a dark chocolate with hints of orange zest or a cheese with natural citrus tastes), or those that have contrasting tastes like a grassy Sencha green tea with rich, sweet milk chocolate). Or just leave it up to chance and assign friends to bring their favorite cheese, chocolate or tea, and see if you uncover magical pairings.
But before you head out to see your go-to cheesemonger (my bff of the edible world), let’s review the best way to experience cheese, chocolate and tea. Unlike room temp or chilled wine, hot tea will actually help reveal flavors tucked within the dairy delights as it warms each bite and melts them on your palate. A chocolatier once shared that to truly experience a piece of chocolate, you should not chew it but rather allow it to melt on your tongue (so consider tea your trusty chocolate side kick to help speed up the melting process).
Now, as we move on to cheese it’s best to think of the tea pairing as a deconstructed latte. You might like your Masala Chai tea with milk, so instead pair a spiced tea with a rich, creamy and slightly sweet cheese to imitate the steeped sip. In terms of the actual process, it’s best to start to by taking several sips of the tea to help establish a base flavor on your palate. Then you will want to take a bite of cheese or chocolate and allow it to melt. And finally, take another sip of tea and see if the flavor changes or is enhanced.
And even after the festivities fade and friends are long gone, there’s no reason why you can’t have a solo 3pm treat of a nibble of chocolate and spot of tea to help get you through the afternoon. And to get this happier hour started, here are a few of my favorite pairings:
• Gruyere Cheese + Roasted Oolong Tea (Red Robe, Red Hood or Da Hong Pao are great choices) + Milk chocolate or milk chocolate caramel
• Gouda (Ewephoria or Midnight moon are specific favorite picks) + roasty, toasty Japanese Genmaicha Green Tea +milk chocolate or chocolate covered marshmallow (if you’re feeling playful)
• Raclette cow’s milk cheese (Reading Raclette is a favorite due to it’s oniony flavors) + earthy, mushroomy aged Pu-erh tea + dark chocolate (with sea salt to truly make this a savory experience…or chocolate covered bacon to take it to another level)
• Salty gorgonzola or blue cheese + citrusy Earl Grey Black Tea + dark chocolate with ample citrus notes or citrus infused dark chocolate