A few weeks ago, I had a great time with my panel of two teenaged tea aficionados, tasting black, green and herbal teas with dark, milk and white chocolates. We were surprised and delighted to discover how well the flavours of some of the teas blended with or accentuated the aromas and flavours of some of the chocolate … and some definitely did not.
Clearly, I have not had enough of the tea and chocolate experience because this week I picked up a half dozen tea infused chocolate bars and am making batches of tea infused truffles using some of the flavours which seemed to go so well together.
One of my favorite local chocolatiers, Thomas Haas, has a line of bars called, appropriately, tea:
The teenage tasters agreed to review them with me, once their taste buds and bladders had recovered after the tea and chocolate pairing.
Here are their notes:
Matcha – white chocolate with granite ground matcha green tea:
appearance: a beautiful mossy green colour, cut into geometric shapes
aroma: vegetable fat, faint white chocolate
flavour: “grass, slightly waxy, creamy, a bit musky”, “very white chocolate with only a slight taste of the tea”, “reminds me of Green tea Kit Kats from Japan”
Rooibos – dark chocolate with rooibos tea and rose essence:
appearance: rich, dark “chocolate” colour
aroma: medicinal, cherry cough syrup, peppery, chocolatey
flavour: “smokey, woody, cherry juice, medicinal, bitter at the end”, “warm at the beginning, bitter cherry juice, then grape juice, then cough syrup after taste”, “woodsy, flowery”
Chai – milk chocolate with Darjeeling tea and spices
appearance: tawny brown, breakable geometric segments
aroma: cinnamon, cloves, ginger snaps, Christmas, Mexican hot chocolate
flavour: “smooth chocolate start, warm cinnamon”, “milk, cinnamon, spicy warmth, earthy, woody, smoky”, “cinnamon, Mexican hot chocolate, sticks to the roof of your mouth”
So, can you tell which one was our favorite? Oh my, the Chai bar was so good there is only one tiny piece left by the time we are finished – and that one is being eyed hungrily. Milk chocolate, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom are really a match made in heaven. Big positive votes for that one.
We also sampled a very pretty bar, brought home from Belgium by Younger Son’s tea loving friend. I thought it was generous of him to share it, as part of the panel.
From Dolfin Belgian chocolate: packaged in a pale green paper and clear plastic sleeve (foil wrapper inside) with a tab for easy resealing, this dark chocolate (52% cacao) bar features crushed Earl Grey tea leaf bits throughout, rather than an infusion:
I do find it amusing that the translation (from their website) of the Carrés gourmands 5 gms is Square Greedy 5gms . I mean, it’s only 5 grams – hardly what I’d call greedy! In this instance, I prefer to go with the dictionary definition of gourmande as “someone who takes a great amount of pleasure in eating” not the “eating to excess” definition further down the page:
Noir – Au The Earl Grey
Appearance: rich deep, dark brown, with tiny bumps along the back surface
aroma: woody, cinnamon, pepper, balsamic, hickory smoke, spice, citrus
flavour: “pepper, floral, lavender, jasmine, spicy”, “strong pepper, then lavender”, “lavender, pepper, salty, a little crunchy, but not in an unpleasant, grainy way – it’s like the crunch belongs”
Clear notes of lavender in this one, and since that is one of my favorite chocolate pairings, this one also gets a big thumbs up from the panel. We held back on devouring it all, and most of it went home with our friend, proving we are not “Square Greedies”.
While browsing in a local tea emporium, I picked up three bars from a previously unknown to me line of chocolate called The Tea Room. From their website:
“After years spent managing high-profile five-star hotels, owner Heinz Rimann opened a tea room in Los Angeles. The idea of tea-infused chocolates came naturally to Heinz.”
I picked up:
Bedouin’s Mint – 38% cacao organic milk chocolate infused with Bedouin’s mint tea
appearance: milky brown, smooth, matte
aroma: medicinal, cooked chocolate pudding, milky, woody
flavour: “medicinal, smooth, almost chemical, faint mint taste, a bit sweet with the mint”
Jasmine – 38% cacao organic milk chocolate infused with Jasmine Green Tea and tangerine essence
appearance: milky brown, smooth, matte
aroma: flowery, citrus, fruity
flavour: “flowery, candy-like, smooth, milky, quite sweet, but an interesting, light taste, tangy”, “didn’t think I was going to like it, at first, but not bad as it melted on my tongue”, “the floweriness of the jasmine made the citrus not too sweet”
Mayan Pepper Chai – 60% cacao organic dark chocolate, Chai spices and Mayan chili powder
appearance: mahogany brown, smooth, matte
aroma: cinnamon, clove, strong chocolate
flavour: “smooth, spicy, fruitcake”, “cloves, citrus, strong chocolate, like drinking chocolate”, “a strong cup of black tea with cinnamon and cloves, then a bit of spice”
This last one, I felt, would be good to have along on a cold day, when out skiing because it tastes like a warm seasonal drink, and I like the way it melts on my tongue. They had less snap and gloss than I was expecting, but were certainly smooth and creamy.
All of these interesting bars made me want to get back into my kitchen and have a go at making some tea infused ganache truffles.
Infusion, according to Wikipedia is:
“… is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time (a process often called steeping).”
The solvent used in making these ganaches is heavy cream. The fat in cream is a very good medium for capturing flavours, as well as providing the velvet texture and creaminess.
An infused ganache can be made using either:
– a cold infusion, where the leaves, pods, seeds or whatever flavour you are trying to impart are placed in the cream and left over a long period (usually overnight), using time as opposed to heat to extract the flavours, then straining out the flavouring agent before heating the cream, or
– a steeped or heated infusion, where the cream is heated, almost to boiling, then the flavouring agent steeped in the hot cream for a number of minutes (as you would do with tea).
In the three batches of truffles I made, I used a heated infusion:
Masala chai/milk chocolate ganache truffles:
I make a masala chai mixture to start. Chai actually really just means “tea”. Masala Chai is what we in North America have come to know as “Chai”.
In a mortar and pestle (I love this part) I energetically pound:
4 whole green cardamom pods
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1 1-inch cinnamon stick
1 piece star anise
3 black peppercorns
Once this mixture is ground to aromatic small pieces, I add in:
1 ½ teaspoons loose black tea leaves (I use an inexpensive gritty loose Assam tea my friend from Pakistan gave me – she told me “high end” tea is never used for Masala Chai)
With this mixture in hand (or mortar), I turn to the Ecole Chocolat recipe section, and make this wonderful recipe, called Chai Tigers.
I made a slight alteration to the recipe, as I did not have any glucose syrup (a crystallization inhibitor) and didn’t want to add either honey or corn syrup, which would also have worked, so I just left it out – perhaps my truffles are not quite as smooth as they could be, but I think they are quite yummy. Thanks, Peter Greweling for your fabulous recipe.
Matcha/white chocolate truffles
Many thanks to Jee and Queenie at Oh How Civilized, a website celebrating afternoon tea, for these smooth and creamy truffles – a tasty contrast of sweet white chocolate and bitter matcha powder. As well as being beautiful to behold, they are delicious with a cup of tea.
These truffles were such fun to make, made very easy to unmold using flexible silicon molds.
Earl Grey/dark chocolate truffles
My absolute favorite – my go-to any time someone asks for a batch of truffles. Be sure to use a good quality Earl Grey.
- 8 ounces good quality dark chocolate
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 teaspoon good quality loose Earl Grey Tea
- ½ teaspoon good quality vanilla extract, such as Madagascar Bourbon
- Cocoa powder to roll truffles
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, sprinkle tea over heavy cream and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- Next morning, allow cream mixture to come to room temperature, then strain out the tea, using a fine strainer
- Heat cream gently until a few bubbles form around edge.
- While cream is heating, roughly chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.
- Heat chocolate in microwave oven at half power, until 70% melted
- In five additions, combining well between each addition, add hot cream to chocolate.
- Stir chocolate and cream together until chocolate is completely melted and mixture is smooth.
- Add vanilla and mix in, trying not to incorporate any air.
- Cover and refrigerate four hours or overnight.
- Place cocoa powder (or other desired coating) in a small bowl.
- Using a teaspoon scoop 1-inch balls of ganache and roll between palms until smooth. Roll in cocoa powder to coat.
- Return to refrigerator until ready to serve.