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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

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