Tea and Chocolate Pairings at La Maison du Chocolate

Up until I had the tea and chocolate pairings at La Maison du Chocolate, I thought the only tea that went well with chocolate was rooibos. Uhhhh, I was totally proven wrong.  

At the Rockefeller Center La Maison du Chocolat location I sat at the bar and tried five different pairings. Tea is from Mariage Frères (a favorite tea company of mine!) and when you order any of their teas, it comes paired with a chocolate that was chosen by La Maison's Creative Director.

Raymond, the boutique manager, expertly steeped each tea for the pairings. Tea was served in smaller espresso cups since we were going to have multiple pairings.

We first started with the French Breakfast Tea which has notes of chocolate, caramel, and vanilla. This was paired with Micaela, a cafe au lait mousse in milk chocolate. First a sip of tea, then a bite of the chocolate, and repeat. The chocolate and caramel notes in the tea melded perfectly with the coffee and milk chocolate.

We moved onto a green tea, the Fuji-Yama. Matching green on green, the chocolate chosen to accompany this tea was the Jolika, an almond paste with pistachio. The clean green tea complemented the smooth almond paste. 

Next up was another green tea, the Jasmin Mandarin. The Dentelle, a praline with crispy crepe was paired with the floral and sweet notes of the tea. Nice and crunchy, this is my kind of chocolate.

Métis is a rooibos with floral, raspberry, and vanilla notes. I think every chocolate goes with rooibos, but the Guayaquil went exceptionally with its hints of vanilla.

Last was the Empereur Chen-Nung, a smoky black tea with underlying orange peel notes. Naturally, this tea was perfect with the Orangette, a candied orange peel dipped in chocolate.

The basics of pairing tea and chocolate are pretty simple -- match a flavor or note found in both the tea and the chocolate. 

On the menu was Marco Polo, one of Mariage Fréres' popular teas which was paired with the Andalousie, a ganache with lemon zest. Since I had Marco Polo at home, I cold brewed it and had it over ice with the Andalousie the next day. All the other pairings I had were very good, but this combination was my favorite.

Muddled Mint Lemonade Iced Tea

A combination of freshly squeezed lemons, mint leaves, and of course, tea makes for a very refreshing summer drink. To brighten up the flavors of a basic Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea), I muddled fresh mint leaves (basil is another great option) using a muddler.

I usually have a pitcher of cold brewed black tea and lemon juice in the fridge so making this drink is super quick. As for the kind of tea, any basic black tea like Earl Grey, English Breakfast, or Ceylon would work.

MINT LEMONADE ICED TEA
Makes 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)
1/2 cup black tea
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 lemon cut into 2 wedges
6-8 fresh mint leaves
ice

DIRECTIONS
Put lemon wedges, sugar, and mint leaves into a thick walled cup and muddle until leaves are lightly crushed.

Stir in lemon juice and black tea and top with ice.

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Posted on June 28, 2015 .

Giveaway // Teavana "The Art of Iced Tea"

You'll be drinking iced tea 24/7 all summer with this gift set from Teavana. Inside the box is the 32oz PerfecTea Tea Maker, two pretty tea canisters, two bags of herbal teas, and a good-sized bag of rock sugar.

The beauty of the PerfecTea Tea Maker is the tea strainer at the bottom. Once steeped, place it on top of a pitcher filled with ice and watch the tea pour out, leaving behind the loose tea leaves. 

Sign up for Oh, How Civilized Emails!

This giveaway is only open to US residents. Good luck!

NOTE: Winner will be contacted by email and comments/follows will be verified. If winner does not respond within three days of being contacted, another winner be chosen. Good luck!

//Giveaway prize courtesy of Teavana.//

Posted on June 8, 2015 .

Grand Cru Tea Tasting Class at Palais Des Thés

About a year and a half ago, French tea company Palais Des Thés opened up their first New York City shop on the Upper West Side. Since then, a second location in Soho location has been added which offers tea tasting classes. (In Paris, there's Palais Des Thes' The Tea School with an extensive tea program.)

There are three classes to choose from ranging from $50 - $80 per person. I took the Grand Cru Tasting where I would be able to try their rarest and finest teas. My intimate hour-long class (no more than four people are in each class) was guided by Palais Des Thés' tea expert Aurélie. 

When I arrived at the Soho shop, I was greeted by Aurélie and the friendly staff at Palais who directed me to a specially designed tea tasting table where tasting cups sets were laid out. We would be tasting four different Grand Cru teas. 

In a tea tasting, you go from lightest to darkest so we started with Silver Needles, a white tea from China that was brewed for about 10 minutes.

With each tasting, we took whiffs of the dry tea and compared it to the wet tea leaves after it had been steeped and then tasted the tea. Loud slurping is encouraged to get the full essence of the tea. It was interesting how it varied so much from how it smelled to how it tasted.

While waiting for teas to brew, Aurélie answered any questions I had and I learned a ton about tea and the art of a tea tasting. 

The tea I enjoyed the most was the Tawaramine Shincha from Japan which was toasty and had a lovely mouthfeel. (By the way, in this class, feel free to throw out words like "mouthfeel" and "vegetal" as much as you want, like I did.)

The hour flew by and I was high on tea. It was a treat to taste their best teas of the season and learn the proper way to enjoy them.

INFO: Grand Cru Tasting Class at Palais Des Thés | 156 Prince Street | New York, NY 10012 | 646.513.4369

//Tea tasting class courtesy of Palais Des Thés. All content and opinions expressed here are my own. //

Posted on June 4, 2015 .

Afternoon Tea Review // The Lowell

SETTING: ★★★★★
The Pembroke Room is on the second floor of The Lowell hotel and it's my FAVORITE place to have afternoon tea in New York City. Tucked away, this elegant room is the perfect setting for tea service. The best part is that the room is only open for afternoon tea between 3PM - 6PM.

SERVICE: 
Knowledgable, friendly, and attentive, the service is excellent, as always.

TEA & TEA SELECTION: 
Nicely curated tea list ranging from black tea blends to herbal infusions. 

This was my second cousin Judy's very first afternoon tea and she was just as delighted as I was when the three-tiered tray arrived at our table. 

Two of the three courses are on the three-tiered tray. The second course of scones is brought out separately, all toasty and warm, after the savories are eaten.

SAVORIES: 
The bottom tray holds the savories -- five tea sandwiches per person. Each one was quite tasty and fresh. No stale bread anywhere in sight.

SCONES: 
A basket of warm scones are brought out and you can choose from two scone selections. I always pick one of each. Scones are served with Devonshire cream, lemon curd, and two types of fruit preserves.

SWEETS: 
The top two trays hold the sweets course -- five sweets for each person. The selection is good, but a little too plain. I would love to see something a little more exciting/innovative.

OVERALL: 
The very best afternoon tea in New York City. A must.

INFO: The Pembroke Room at The Lowell | 28 East 63rd Street | New York, NY 10065 | 212.838.1400
AFTERNOON TEA HOURS: Daily from 3PM - 6PM
COST: Classic Pembroke Tea, $52 per person