Chocolate

Late-Night Lattes and Gelato

© 2012 Affogato

Earlier in the week, I was invited to a couple’s house for dinner. I’d known said couple for several years. The wife is a zany interior decorator, and her husband is a homebrewer. Their son – the new arrival to their little nest – was the most expressive toe-head of a baby I’d ever seen. Cute as a button.

They succeeded in accomplishing an amazing feat that night – getting me to eat an entirely vegetarian meal. That and eating everything that was on my plate. If it hasn’t been made obvious, I’m the very antithesis of a vegetarian. Meat is delicious.

If someone said to me, “That will kill you someday.”

My response would be, “The sooner the better!” All the while gleefully OM-NOM-ing my way into happy oblivion.

Both had prepared a wondrous meal of cooked barley and kale salad. The only thing not a vegetable was the goat cheese, which was also fantastic. And something I hadn’t had before. But the day o’ firsts didn’t end there. Ooooh no.

Following a mediocre outing for beers (and rude waiters), the couple suggested we stop off at a gelato place for dessert. I’d never had it before. They described it as “ice cream made with egg and milk…and awesome!” (paraphrased slightly). Only time I’d ever heard of it was in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

The location in question – known as Affogato – was within walking distance from their fair ‘burb in St. John’s, a very distant fringe of Portland. The gelato/espresso place had only been open for six weeks. Both of the owners were brothers, and – aside from the gelato that they made themselves – they also (as I was told) made/boiled/blended a mean masala chai.

Yes, it's a bad picture, but - trust me - it was delicious.

Crappy picture, I know. But delicious.

I had determined to only stick with the gelato. My cup was a hybrid of “Milk Chocolate Chunk” and regular chocolate. It was the stuff Care Bear Heaven was made of. I gleefully devoured it with very little poise or posture, making a mess the entire way. What I wasn’t expecting was how filling it would be.

@ 2012 Affogato

@ 2012 Affogato

While I was inhaling my dessert, I queried Simon (the co-owner) about their chai some more. He informed me that they did all the blending and brewing themselves – just like everything else in their shop. This made my ears perk. Then he informed me that they boiled the spices for multiple hours. I drilled him for ingredients. He told me their signature blend contained orange pekoe, ginger, cardamom, cloves, anise, nutmeg, peppercorns, honey, orange zest, cinnamon, coconut sugar, and…lastly…

Vanilla beans!

I ordered the chai latte.

To be honest, I’m not usually a masala chai sorta guy. When I do have it, I prefer the spices to be balanced with the milk, sweetness, and black tea base. It’s easy to make masala chai and the latte variant, but it’s also easy to mess it up. This was perfectly balanced. On the spice end, ginger definitely took point, but it was reined in by the vanilla presence. That and texturally it was fluffy but full-bodied. These brothers knew what they were doing.

I left with a tummy full of warming awesome.

Now, all I’ve gotta do is convince them to make a masala chai gelato.

*Cue evil laughter*

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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 Steep Stories No Comments

Tea-Beer, Too: The Chocolate Puerh Stout

After the slam-dunk that was the strawberry tea-beer, I was eager to try other combinations. The particular flavor I craved was chocolate. Teas with that flavor profile were a gamble, but chocolate beers fared better odds.  The hunt was on.

Luckily, I didn’t have to look that far for the right tea. On a random run to Whole Foods, I spotted a Chocolate Puerh put out by Numi. In my tea journey, I had since graduated from “ye olde teabag”, but there were a few companies I returned to for a quality product. Numi was one of them, principally for their organic emphasis. Yes, organic does make a difference in taste. That and their Chocolate Puerh used no chocolate flavoring.

Ingredients were thus: “Organic Puerh, Organic Cocoa Powder, Organic Vanilla, Organic Theo Chocolate Cocoa Nibs, Organic Rooibos, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Nutmeg, Organic Cinnamon”…or so sayeth their site. Point being, they captured the essence of chocolate perfectly. Sweetener wasn’t even needed to invoke that sensation.

To my surprise, I actually had a harder time finding a chocolate beer. Whereas finding the tea took mere seconds, the right beer took – oh – a few minutes. I know; such a chore. Not that time was of the essence or anything.

I settled on a Chocolate Stout put out by Bison Brewing. It, too, was labeled as an organic product. This was perfect. Not only might I land a like-flavored tea-beer, but hippies would approve. That has always ever been my goal! (Er…not really.)

I quickly rushed home to begin the alco-alchemy.

A troubling thought surfaced when I started steeping the tea. The Chocolate Puerh bag contained roughly a teaspoon of tea/herb. That wouldn’t be enough to brew a proper concentrate. I could’ve gone with two teabags, but I was worried about flavor strength. I didn’t want the tea to dominate over the stout. Some might think, “How could a puerh tea supersede a stout in flavor?” To which I’d merely shake my head. Puerh brews strong…even as teabag fannings.

At the time, I had very few black teas at my disposal. The darkest I could find was a Ceylon blend put out by Smith Teamaker; their Kandy mix. Ceylon’s usually didn’t brew that dark, but I was desperate and it seemed robust enough. I added a tablespoon of that to the fray.

To my surprise, even with the smaller amount than usual, the tea brewed up quite dark. A dry, chocolaty scent emanated from the steam. Although, to be honest, it looked rather gruesome as it colored; like some kind of fecal swamp.

After roughly five minutes, the tea was done doing its thing. It was time to add the beer to the brew. The Bison was a thick stout, especially for beer from a bottle.  I couldn’t even see through it, and the rich, foamy head resembled that of a nitro on tap. Perhaps a thicker puerh concentrate wasn’t a bad idea after all.

I added the tea muck to the beer bulk. It was amazing to see a beverage blacken even more; like looking at an event horizon taking form in a pint glass. Concentrated cocoa evil. I betrayed a wicked smile. Usually, when a paler beverage is added to a stout – such as with a Black and Tan – they instantly divide into two layers. That was not the case here.  Both seemed to mix favorably.

Applying a spoon to the concoction to stir proved a bit of a chore. The foam, which had frothed more with the tea inclusion, clung to the utensil as if trying to swallow it whole. Demons couldn’t have conceived of a more fantastically devilish effect.

As for taste, it completely lived up to the promised namesakes of both. The cocoa-nib-laden puerh blended with the stout for a flavor that was on the favorable side of dark chocolate. It wasn’t as sweet as I would’ve thought, but chocolate worth its weight in wonderful isn’t. I was now two-for-two in my tea-beer trek. I still preferred the strawberry mix better, yet this definitely earned a savory silver medal.

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Friday, November 19th, 2010 Beverage Blog, Steep Stories 4 Comments

I work for tea money.

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