Anyone who reads my blog even in passing will have worked out that I love tea and I love chocolate. So when I was approached a couple of months ago about a soon-to-launch new chocolate business combining the two, I was pretty excited!
The suggestion was that she send some chocolates out to me, ahead of the launch of the business, for me to review.
Whilst a review of the chocolates is all well and good and rather dandy actually (and is provided below) I was really interested in finding out more about the budding project, how it came to be born, and about the person behind it so I suggested we meet up for tea and cakes in London and a chat!
Maison Bertaux, thank you for providing a lovely environment for our meeting!
I warmed to American, Katie Christoffers, from her first email (and found her charming in person too). Why? Because her comments made it clear she was a genuine reader of my blog and had taken the time to write a personalised email that referred to my interests and spoke to me directly. (You might not realise how rare that is!)
I was also delighted to find out that she’d taken much of her original inspiration from the creative use of matcha by food bloggers – it’s not something I’ve blogged about personally but it is something I’ve also picked up on in the many blogs I read avidly myself and I agree with Katie that it seems to be almost unique to the world of food blogging – you do see matcha now and again on the occasional restaurant menu but it’s frequent use in baking and confectionaries is far more prevalent in the blogosphere! Katie is a genuine food blog lover and is almost as excited about launching her own blog as the business itself!
You might be surprised to learn that Katie isn’t a chocolatier by training. In fact she has a background in in neuroscience and biochemistry research – you can imagine how helpful the demanding exactitude those fields require has assisted her in the perfecting of her chocolates! Quite a change though, isn’t it?!
She has invested a lot of time and effort in developing her range, creating a brand (and the beautiful associated packaging) and preparing for the launch. It’s quite inspiring to learn that all this has been done out of her home rather than any specialist chocolate-making studio or factory.
The collection she sent me to review, before our face-to-face meeting, is called The Emperor’s Selection. As you can see, Katie has expanded on the initial matcha inspiration to combine chocolate with a much wider range of teas as well as flavourings with which tea is commonly imbued, such as chai spices.
The chocolates arrived beautifully wrapped and packaged. Whilst it’s ultimately the contents that are important, I can’t help but take pleasure from beautiful packaging and the bright, funky colours and patterns were appealing.
So, to the chocolates!
“A milk chocolate enrobed square of dark chocolate ganache with an infusion of Uji Matcha green tea- grown in the Uji region of Kyoto, Japan”
Given the name of the business and the role of matcha as the original inspiration, I was surprised that the flavour of matcha didn’t come through more strongly. It was pleasant, but subtle. I’d say a little too subtle for my preferences and I’d like to taste more of a matcha kick.
“Milk chocolate ganache with black tea liqueur- slightly smoky and reminiscent of Chinese Lapsang tea. Enrobed in a dark chocolate dome.”
The crack of the gorgeous dark chocolate robe gave way to a lovely smooth and smokey ganache. The smokiness provided an intriguing and complex flavour which I found really unusual. Very nice indeed!
Jasmine Silver Needles
“A white chocolate dome of white chocolate ganache infused with Jasmine tea- one of the most well known Chinese teas.”
To my shock, as someone who is absolutely not a fan of white chocolate (and that’s an understatement!), I absolutely adored this chocolate. Infact, it was my favourite in the box! And yet I had been reluctant to even try it! The chocolate itself is superbly smooth and so creamy as it melts in the mouth. The jasmine, a favourite scent and flavour of mine, comes through loud and clear and is an absolutely perfect partner for the white chocolate. Who would have guessed? Not me but I could happily eat an entire box just of these!
“An all milk chocolate demi-dome infused with a blend of scented blackcurrant tea and an Assam tea. Complimented by blackcurrant puree and topped with a dried blackcurrant.”
This was another subtle one, though the blackcurrant taste was certainly there. I liked it but it would probably be more popular with those who are bigger fans of this fruit; then again they may want a stronger blackcurrant kick.
“Milk chocolate ganache infused with Chai tea- a traditional blend of black tea infused with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves and aniseed. Enrobed in a dark chocolate dome and topped with a piece of crystallised ginger.”
I can see why this chocolate is the centre piece of all three of Katie’s chocolate collections. I really liked the combination of good quality dark chocolate wtih the spicy ganache and chewy ginger.
Infact, I’d like to suggest that Katie expands her product line to offer a Masala Chai Hot Chocolate, which would surely go down well? What do you think – let me and Katie know in the comments, below!
As you might guess, she takes a great deal of care when sourcing her teas too!
In her fillings Katie sticks to organic cream and butter (not vegetable oils), fresh herbs and fresh fruit purees. As she does not add any artificial preservatives the chocolates have a two week life shelflife, though I’ll be impressed if you manage to make them last that long!
Katie will initially be selling her chocolates online via her new Matcha Chocolat website where you can buy the chocolates I reviewed above*.
You can also buy her Chocolate Parasols – solid chocolate disks featuring common tea flavourings such as bergamot (utterly, addictively delicious) and kashmiri chai (cardamom, almond, cinammon and nutmeg). These are seriously, seriously good and I’m rationing myself to make them last as long as I can!
*The Emperor’s Selection is available until the end of May. In June and August Katie will be offering The Jade Selection (Sencha, Liquid Jade, China Rose, Strawberry Summer and Masala Chai). From September you can purchase The Lotus Selection (Genmaicha, April Snow, Secret Garden, Keemun Mango, Masala Chai).
Katie has kindly offered a box of four giant tea chocolates to one of my lucky readers! To enter, just leave a comment telling us about your favourite chocolate recipe or idea for combining chocolate with another ingredient. (If you leave more than one comment, I’ll take your first one as your entry). The competition closes on the 21st March 2010 (midnight GMT) and I’ll announce the winner shortly afterwards. (Open to UK mainland residents only).