Tokyo (SCCIJ) – The first and only Swiss Master Sake Sommelier and the founder of a Swiss chocolate manufactory are promoting the spread of sake in Switzerland by pairing it with chocolate. Their workshops have already proven popular.
New flavor experience
Sake expert Charly Iten was looking for a food link between Japan and Switzerland: “Since chocolate, like cheese, is inextricably linked to Switzerland, I thought for some time to make sake palatable to a wider audience by combining both,” Iten says. He found the right partner in Shireen C. von Schulthess of Nala The Chocolate Queen. Founded only in May 2019, the small startup runs a manufactory to create new chocolates with unexpected flavors.
Chocolate can be paired with many flavors to create ever new experiences. Nala Chocolate is an up-and-coming brand in the chocolatier landscape of Switzerland. It offers unique innovations and creates new combinations with chocolate. In collaboration with Nala The Chocolate Queen, two delicate pralines have already been created – one contains yuzu sake and the other blood orange sake.
“Our first tests of combinations with chocolate and sake have already resulted in exciting and sought-after products,” says Iten. The two foods can not only be combined to create unique chocolates but also offer a new tasting experience. Much like sake offers a valid alternative to wine when accompanying multi-course menus, sake opens up the field in chocolate tasting. Thus, the two experts came up with the idea to design tasting workshops.
The team held their first workshop “Chocolate meets Sake” at the Food Zurich fair where they presented delicious pairings of chocolate and sake. For example, they combined the sake Dewazakura Ôka ginjô with the praline “Lemongrass Dream”, which is filled with a lemongrass caramel. “When you have the praline in your mouth and take a sip of the Ôka with it, the lemongrass intensifies very clearly with a flavor explosion,” Iten says.
Workshop participants experience the pleasure of chocolate and sake in combination and are introduced to chocolate creations that contain sake. The workshop consists of five to six tasting courses. Each “course” presents a premium sake, a special couverture (chocolate) and a praline from Nala Chocolate to taste. In parallel, participants learn a great deal about the production of premium sake and special chocolates.
Demand for sustainability
The combination with sake catches a general trend towards high-quality chocolate. Bean to bar chocolates are in vogue. The sustainability of cocoa farming and the processes in the manufactory have become an important topic. “We mainly process Grand Cru cocoa from specific farms where we know everything about the production,” von Schulthess explains.
At the same time, premium sake is gaining more and more ground in Swiss gastronomy as a high-quality alternative to wine. The new generation of Swiss star chefs appreciates this very much. “Premium sake as an accompanying drink to good food is a new approach and offers a new playground of possibilities and innovations”, says Iten.
Also, the spirit of sustainability would be ingrained in sake-making. Premium sake is brewed in small to medium-sized family-run breweries. The flour produced during the rice polishing is sometimes sold to bakeries that make rice crackers, for example. At the end of the fermentation, the remaining sake lees are used as a soup ingredient, concentrated feed for animals, or in cosmetic products.
Text: Martin Fritz for SCCIJ