This Surprising Ingredient Will Make Your Chocolate Desserts Taste Even Richer

Did we mention that it’s cheap and available pretty much everywhere?

Chocolate mug cake
Photo: Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Everybody knows that instant coffee or espresso powder can help embolden the flavor of chocolate. A teaspoon added to chocolate cake batter elevates its richness and makes the flavors sing. But for people who dislike coffee (or can't have it for any other reason), this baking hack isn't so helpful. That's where instant tea powder comes in. Just like coffee, instant tea powder can elevate the flavor of chocolate and take it to a whole new level. Add it to chocolate cake batter and suddenly the deep, complex flavors of the cocoa pop. Here's what you need to know.

How Instant Tea Powder Heightens the Flavor of Chocolate

Just like chocolate, black teas' primary flavor notes are bitter, roasty, and rich. They both share an intense bitterness when consumed on their own but come alive when sweetened or paired with dairy. So when instant tea powder is paired with chocolate, those flavor notes are intensified. You now have twice the amount of bitterness, twice the roasted flavor, and an amplified richness that comes across as a bolder chocolate flavor in the dessert. The added bitterness also helps tame sweetness; the sharpness of the tea powder cuts through the sugar and helps the cocoa flavors shine. It's the exact same reason why instant coffee works its similar magic!

Don't be worried about your baked goods tasting like tea, though. If you add the tea powder to desserts that are flavored with cocoa powder or actual chocolate (such as brownies, cakes, or chocolate cookies) all you will taste is chocolate. The actual flavor of the tea powder will meld into the dessert and become indistinguishable amongst the chocolate flavor.

How to Use Instant Tea Powder in Chocolate Desserts

When purchasing an instant tea powder to bake with, make sure it's plain, unflavored black tea. (These are sometimes labeled instant iced tea.) If you're unsure if the instant tea you're buying is unflavored, check the ingredient list and make sure the only things listed are instant tea powder (or just tea) and one or two functional ingredients like maltodextrin—there shouldn't be any flavorings or additional ingredients added. The most common variety found in grocery stores is Lipton unsweetened instant iced tea powder. Other brands can be found in the tea section of most well-stocked grocery stores or easily ordered online.

For most recipes all you need to do is add the instant tea powder directly to your dry ingredients. The moisture from your wet ingredients will dissolve the tea powder and distribute its flavor throughout. I typically add about two tablespoons of instant tea powder to my chocolatey baked goods, although you can play around with the amount you add based on personal preference. Anywhere between a tablespoon and ¼ cup of instant tea powder should be enough to heighten the flavor of your cocoa or chocolate. Instant tea powder is slightly less concentrated than espresso powder, so you will need a bit more to achieve a similar flavor-boosting effect.

Here are a few recipes that would be perfect for adding instant tea powder to:

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