Everyone knows that coffee and chocolate are a good fit. But did you know that tea and chocolate go very nicely together too. Scroll through this uber review of several boxes of tea chocolate from Matcha Chocolates to find out more.
The Emperor’s Selection
Since hearing quite a bit recently about combining chocolate and tea, I have been intrigued by the concept. I have been wanting to try making my own matcha or Earl Grey cakes and/or biscuits but still haven’t managed it yet. So, I was very excited to receive a box of tea chocolates from Matcha Chocolat in the post.
This box of tea chocolates was the Emperor’s Selection and was beautifully presented in pink with Matcha Chocolat’s distinctive Chinese teapot logo on the sides. The chocolates looked so good when I lifted off the lid, that I experienced conflicting emotions – get stuck in or just look at them with awe. These are definitely chocolates for savouring rather than wolfing down in the traditional British boorish style (or maybe that’s just us). Patience was called for however, as I first had to charge up the camera batteries and take photographs. As consolation, I had a good sniff and picked up a rich fruity scent. This could have been the result of the Valrhona chocolate used to enrobe some of the tea ganaches, which is renowned for having fruity qualities.
As a drinker of green and white tea, I am not particularly fond of the black stuff, but I really loved these tea chocolates – all of them. I’m not even sure I could pick out a favourite if truth be told. They all challenged perceptions of what a chocolate should be and they all did it in the nicest possible way. Now I feel I should really do what I’ve been wanting to do for so long and make my own tea confections.
The Jade Collection
I recently received another box of tea chocolates from Matcha Chocolat, this time the Jade Collection. The selections available vary according to season, starting with the Emperor’s Selection available from March to May, this one from June to August and the Lotus Selection, September to November. I hope the yawning gap between Christmas and Easter will be filled in due course. I like these chocolates.
I got another chance to practice delayed gratification, as their arrival coincided with flat camera batteries AGAIN. As the batteries were charging, I consoled myself by taking the lid off the very attractive box and feasting my eyes and nose with the wonderful aromas and the exquisite presentation.
This would make an excellent gift both for chocolate connoisseurs and tea lovers alike. Even if you don’t like tea but have an open and enquiring mind I’m sure you will enjoy this new world of flavours. We would certainly not be averse to trying another box or ten.
The Jade Collection Chocolates
Sencha – This was the one I found hardest to bite into because of the wonderful gold design on the top of these square white chocolates. When bitten into, it was a delightful surprise to discover that the ganache was green. Sadly, the look of this one was the best part for me. It smelt and tasted very strongly of green tea – not green tea that is fragrant and lightly brewed, but tea that has been left in the pot too long. The bitter taste lasted a long time after all physical traces had long been swallowed. CT, on the other hand really liked this one as it reminded him of sitting in a kaiten sushi bar in Tsukuba, Japan eating far too much and drinking copious amounts of green tea.
The Lotus Collection
I was thrilled to get the latest tea chocolate collection in the post from Katie Christoffers of Matcha Chocolat – it made a more than pleasant change from the bills. Like her Emperor Selection and Jade Selection, the Lotus Selection did not disappoint. The familiar pink box with its distinctive teapot logo is almost like an old friend now (and like an old friend, I wouldn’t mind seeing it a bit more often). It’s very welcome and a sign of good things to come.
The chocolates come in five flavours and are beautifully presented with a mix of white, milk and plain. There are four newcomers to this collection and they cluster around the venerable Masala Chai as if paying homage to it. It is rare to be able to find freshly made chocolates that have no additives to prolong their shelf life. The freshness of these chocolates really comes through.
Although a tea connoisseur would appreciate these chocolates, we mere mortals find them delicious and intriguing. Within this selection, there is bound to be something to suit all tastes. Some of the Belgian chocolates I tasted were pretty damn good, but Katie’s could matcha up to any of them – pun fully intended.
The Lotus Collection Chocolates
Secret Garden – A delicate violet scent caresses the nose followed by a fuller flavour when this glossy dark chocolate dome is bitten into. Unexpectedly, a layer of tangy violet jelly lies just beneath the surface, under which the milk chocolate ganache can be found. The taste of tea quickly follows the violet and though not in the least powerful, it is persistent and noticable. I was slightly worried about associations with great aunts and Parma violets, but needn’t have been, as this is nothing like as strong as a traditional violet cream.
Keemum Mango – A pertly placed piece of dried mango sits on top of this milk chocolate dome. Inside is a wonderfully light and smooth textured milk chocolate ganache. It has a subtle yet penetrating flavour of mango, something a bit floral and with the flavour of Keemum tea providing a good solid backing. The panel were in 100% agreement that this was absolutely delicious and it would be very easy to eat more of these than would be good for you.
Masala Chai – This dark chocolate with its cap of ginger is the signature chocolate in the collection and I was very happy to see this old favourite back; I would have been most disappointed had it not been there. It has a soothing creamy quality, something to do with all that dark chocolate and blend of healing spices – you could almost believe you were on some kind of ayurvedic treatment or health kick.
April Snow – CT thought this white chocolate was straight out of the harem with its oriental opulence, silky texture, and powerful floral taste. As a white tea drinker, I thought the ganache blend here was just about right. It both smelt and tasted deliciously of creamy tea, not too strong, but definitely there with a light taste of alcohol coming through later.
Genmaicha – The design on top of this plain chocolate square was so beautiful, I felt guilty about biting into it. I heroically overcame this diffidence, however and after inhaling the strong chocolate and tea aromas, I sank my teeth into it. Immediately, I was aware of an earthy slightly bitter taste, almost like a cup of wake-me-up coffee. This was a darker, richer and altogether more chocolatey experience than the others. CT thought it would bring you back down to earth after the ethereal delights of the violet.
The Winter Selection
A box of tea chocolates arrived in the post last week. This was The Winter Selection from Matcha Chocolat, the final one in a seasonal series. I’ve already eaten my way through: The Lotus Selection, The Jade Selection, The Emperor’s Selection. Having very much enjoyed them, I was looking forward to the latest one with some anticipation. The familiar square pink box with the teapot logo got me salivating as soon as I saw it. I opened the lid and the familiar waft of deliciously aromatic chocolate with a hint of tea was immediately liberated – oh good.
I was not disappointed, this box was another winner from Matcha Chocolat and it might possibly be the best. I’ll just have to try the whole range all over again to find out. With the Christmas season fast approaching, this would make an ideal gift. In fact, I’ve just ordered one for this very purpose.
With the chocolates, Katie kindly included a sample of Jasmine Pearls leaf tea from Canton Tea Co. We sipped this in between sampling the chocolates. It was lovely to see the pearls unravelling into spidery shapes when the hot water was poured over them. It had a powerful heady jasmine aroma when poured and an equally powerful, but very pleasant taste, rather more of tea than flowers. A little goes a long way. As all good teas should be, this was very refreshing and CT thought it was the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of chocolate tasting.
The Winter Selection Chocolates
Jasmine Pearls – This white chocolate dome had a beautiful green swirl across it that almost looked like Chinese calligraphy. The aroma of chocolate and jasmine tea was noticeable even before taking that first anticipated bite. The exotic floral flavour of jasmine tea was immediately released and combined well with a particularly delicious white chocolate that was not nearly as sweet as white chocolate can sometimes be. The mixture of bitter tea, jasmine perfume and sweet chocolate was well balanced and created a harmonious whole. It had a creamy texture in the mouth as it melted and I knew I could easily eat more of these than would be good for me.
Mint & Green Tea – This crisp milk chocolate dome with pieces of gold leaf on top had a sweet spicy smell with a hint of mint. The milk chocolate seemed just right and the soft and unctuous ganache melted in the mouth very quickly. As it melted, the mint flavour was quickly released with the green tea following soon after. Mint chocolates are very hard to do well as the mint can be overpowering and have a harsh, artificial flavour. This mint had presence with the authentic notes of real mint; these lingered long after the tea had faded. A truly delicious chocolate.
Matcha – A square milk chocolate shell with a gorgeous coppery top and spiral patterning. This had a strong, robust yet sweet smell of cocoa, but with the matcha infiltrating the scent. When bitten into there was no mistaking the distinctive umami presence of matcha, This was CT’s personal favourite, for me it was a little too powerful. It worked well with the sweet milk chocolate, which ameliorated its more extreme tendencies. CT thought this had a kind of punchiness, less rarified and more forceful than the others – just right for a samurai to fortify himself before battle (or setting off on the daily commute).
Earl Grey – Decorated with a piece of candied orange sat jauntily on the top, this dark chocolate dome was strong and sharp. It produced an immediate and powerful chocolate hit. The taste of Earl Grey was more subtle than the others, as one would expect from this delicately flavoured tea. The taste came through a while after the first spike of chocolate had been registered – all the more reason to move the melting mass around in the mouth; this chocolate does not give up its secrets quickly. The ganache was beautifully smooth, as I’ve come to expect from Katie’s chocolates. This gave them the usual silky mouth feel which was an interesting contrast to the drying effects of the tea.
Masala Chai Caramels – These were particularly pretty. They had a contemporary feel being heart shaped with a pink impressionistic brush stroke on the top. They smelt sweetly of cardamom. The first taste to register, unsurprisingly, was that of cardamom. This was followed by the sweetness of the caramel, then the black tea unexpectedly stormed the palate, followed finally by the smoothness of the milk chocolate. The consensus was, yum scrum, more for our tum (s) – please!
Mother’s Day Selection
When I was asked if I’d be interesting in reviewing the latest selection from Matcha Chocolat, I nearly bit Katie’s arm off. I’m a big fan of Katie Christoffers and the wonderful tea based chocolates that she produces. Since she started making fresh artisan chocolates two years ago, she’s been going from strength to strength and has won several prestigious awards. From her tea theme she has gone on to develop a range of other chocolates all inspired by various fruit, flowers, herbs and spices from around the world.
I was pleased to see that although the box had changed colour, from pink to slate blue and the pattern on top had changed, it has the same feel as the design that I remembered so well. The aroma of rich chocolate that wafted up from the box when the lid was taken off was exactly as I remembered it. This Mother’s Day Selection contains both tea and non tea fillings. Each chocolate has been matched to a single origin chocolate from Venezuela, Madagascar, Sao Tome or the Caribbean. There were 16 in the box, two of each flavour and I very generously, if I may say so, shared them with CT.
They were all absolutely exquisite. They were also very satisfying, tasting of real chocolate and real things. The only quibble we had was the bit of lavender which would have been better if removed before eating. You can tell Katie is a true artisan by the good balancing of flavours and I suspect must spend a considerable time perfecting her recipes. She is a master chocolatier and richly deserves the reputation she is building up and the awards she has won. There were two that stood out for us though. CTs favourite was the Hazelnut & Cinnamon Feullantine and this was mine too – until I got to the Masala Chai Caramel, which I think topped it, just a bit!
Now I’m itching to try 1) yuzu, 2) rosemary, raisin & walnut, 3) banana and cardamom, 4) Vietnamese cinnamon, 5) chestnut & whisky 6) any others I haven’t tried 😉
So, to the chocolates and in the order that we tried them:
The Mother’s Day Selection Chocolates
Earl Grey – ganache made with 64% dark chocolate from Madagascar and enrobed in dark chocolate. It has an aroma and taste of strong dark chocolate with subtle notes of Earl Grey. This takes a while to come through, but also takes a while to leave. It has a slight smokiness and a citrussy note with the smooth unctuous creaminess I associate with Matcha Chocolat. Delicious.
Pink Grapefruit (Great Taste Award Winner) – ganache made with a mix of Madagascan 64% and Santo Domingo 67% dark chocolate. This uses real pink grapefruit juice and you can tell – it tastes of fruit rather than a chemical. CT has a horror of commercial citrus chocolate which makes him feel nauseous, but he was fine with this one. It has a slight bitterness associated with grapefruit pith and tastes of the fruit, but not overwhelmingly so – Katie has matched this well. I loved the appearance of this one too, with what looks like a cherry blossom motif on top.
Tonka Bean Caramel – Covered in dark 64% Venezuelan chocolate, this caramel has a butterscotch flavour with a touch of bitterness that stops it being too sweet. This one was particularly intriguing as neither of us had the foggiest what a tonka been is meant to taste like and this made it hard to identify the flavours. It was distinctive, with a slight floral tone and won’t be forgotten in a hurry. It seems most unusual to combine salted caramel with these sorts of flavours, but it works.
Passion Fruit – Venezuelan 49% milk blended with 64% Madagascan dark chocolate, this ganache is covered in milk chocolate. Although we both love the fruit, we’ve had bad experiences of passion fruit flavoured goods in the past; normally, it drowns everything else out with its artificial brashness. It was thus with some interest that we bit into this one, wondering if Katie had managed to pull it off. Yes she has; it tastes like real passionfruit rather than a real passion killer. The flavour is fruity to begin with, but difficult to identify. As it goes on, however, the passionfruit comes through with its lovely tart, aromatic quality.
Los Ancones – 67% dark chocolate ganache from the Los Ancones plantation in Santo Domingo. Wow, this packed a powerful punch with its robust, rich, strong chocolate flavour. I tasted notes of toffee, but boy did it make the taste buds zing. No elegance or gentleness here, despite the gold leaf decorating the top, its not in the least bit subtle; CT remarked it was akin to drinking strong black coffee after a heavy night out – a real theobromine hit. But oh so creamy!
Hazelnut & Cinnamon – 64% dark Venezuelan chocolate. This was the only one where we detected an aroma other than chocolate before biting into it. CT detected hazelnut, I detected cinnamon – together we got it right! There were lots of oohs, and ahhs going on with this one. Softly crunchy, the taste of hazelnut emerged first then came the cinnamon which ultimately becomes dominant – two for the price of one. It was delicious with a surprise texture, very different to the others due to its crunchy wafers. As CT, between grunts of satisfaction put it, “it’s alchemy, that’s what it is – Katie the alchemist”. Salt is also included and enhances the tastes of the others to brilliant effect.
Lavender & Vanilla – A mix of 49% Venezuelan milk and 64% dark Venezuelan. This had a strong aroma of lavender from the calyx on the top. Initially it tasted of mild mint, which was delicious if rather unexpected. We put it down to the ameliorating influence of vanilla. But when we bit into the calyx the strong bitter taste of lavender kicked in and overpowered the rest; it would have been better without it and should have come with a warning sign!
Masala Chai Caramel (Great Taste Award Winner) – Venezuelan dark chocolate housing my favourite caramel, but in a rather different form. This is beautifully and strikingly decorated with its blue swirl around one side. The liquid spiced caramel has cardamom to the fore and it just as good as I remember it – pure decadence. The ultimate comfort food reckoned CT and a couple of those after a hard day would beat any glass of wine.