latte

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

Makin’ a Maple Bacon Tea Latte

I’m allergic to pork.

Pig’s meat and I don’t get along. I learned this the hard way as anyone would – while eating a sandwich. Maybe some might learn of so traumatic a food sensitivity via pizza or a hot dog, but mine was triggered by bad batch of organic, free-range deli ham. Yes, very manly. This occurrence made everything – with the exception of Irish rashers (because they’re blessed by leprechauns) – off limits.

Of course, as fate would have it, love of bacon reached meta-memetic proportions on the “Internets” and various other media. So exaggerated was this bacony adulation, that numerous unrelated products started hitting the market; bacon vodka, bacon clothing, bacon-flavored desserts. None of these caught my eye, and still I wallowed in my allergy.

Until a tea caught my eye.

A little company called 52Teas came up with a Maple Bacon Black Tea. Wha?! Ingredients for this magnificent monstrosity included an Assam/Nilgiri black tea base, imitation bacon pieces, and maple/bacon flavors. No actual bacon…which meant I could have it! Alas, due to the model of the site, the tea sold out rather quickly. It came up again in circulation, and – fueled by nerdy curiosity – I instantly bought some. (My review of that chimeric beast can be found HERE.)

(Note: The product is now a permanent staple at the 52Teas offshoot site; Man Teas.)

While I thought it was lacking in certain areas, generally I liked it. On a particularly experimental day, I added a dash of Lapsang Souchong (a pine-smoked black tea) to the maply mix. The result was pure morning manliness, but something was still missing. It was a good breakfast cup but wasn’t quite “breakfast in a cup”. My geeky gears started turning.

In the same months that I received the bacon tea, I also played around with tea lattes; inspired by the London Fog, an Earl Grey concoction. I’d tested out various combinations, but none of them were very – y’know – manly. Lattes were the subjects of soccer moms, poets, and pansies. It didn’t help that I loved them, especially in tea form. Not manly.

The answer was a Maple Bacon Tea Latte. Ingredients would be thus: Tea (Maple Bacon/Lapsang Souchong blend), milk (obviously), vanilla syrup, vanilla extract, stevia, and maple syrup. The Gods themselves could not imagine so blissfull a concoction. (Maybe…)

First Step: Brewing the tea. Both Lapsang Souchong and flavored black teas of an Indian origin were rather resilient to long steep times. For the purposes of manliness, dark and slightly bitter were the way to go. Four-to-five minutes would be the ideal steep time; 2 tsp worth in 8oz of boiled water to brew a perfect concentrate.

Second Step: Heating and frothing the milk. This could be touchy without a cappuccino machine…which I didn’t have. I opted for nuking the milk for a minute – coincided with the last minute of the tea concentrate’s infusion – then used a milk frother.

Third Step: Adding the syrups/sweeteners to the milk. I suppose this could be done after frothing the milk, but I chose to do it during. A dash of stevia (Shush! Stevia is MANLY!), a hint of vanilla extract, and generous splashes of maple and vanilla syrup. Cleanliness is key, depending on the sticky condition one can tolerate with their frother afterwards. Stickiness is not manly…er…sometimes.

(Note: According to a May entry of The Consumerist, Torani has a bacon-flavored syrup. So if you want extra baconiness, substitute the vanilla syrup with this.)

Fourth (and Final) Step: Fusing the tea concentrate with the miasmic milk. This is pretty self-explanatory. I added the sweet/syrupy milk to the tea, then stirred. The result was, well, a latte by its very definition.

I also chose to add cinnamon as a garnish on top. Why? Because cinnamon is MANLY! I dare you to disagree! (Ahem.) And, there ya have it. Pure breakfast in a cup. When I first tried it, I was blown away. I even guinea-pigged my brother into sipping it, and he agreed. By description alone, most people I told the idea to expressed revulsion at the concept. Hopefully, this little tale and tutorial convinces you – fair reader – otherwise.

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Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 Steep Stories 2 Comments

I work for tea money.

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