For me, leafing through a recently-released compendium of teas with many first-flush single-origin varieties is akin to salivating over those luscious photos of vegetables in a seed-seller’s catalogue: Each entry promising something new, summoning a hopeful if guarded belief in Nature and the growing conditions of my garden. What will the tea taste like? Will my garden be kind to those defenseless seeds? These photos on each page leap out and call to me, underpinned by an implied promise that they will grow and thrive; reinforcing my belief in the greenness of my thumb. In the case of the teas: Confident in my tea-brewing skill, there is potentially a new experience to be had; and there’s much less work to guarantee a good — even stellar — result in the cup. I’m thinking of one such discovery: Chamraj Golden Tips, a bold-leaf black tea from India’s Nilgiri region. if you taste it deeply with your taste buds on high alert, you’ll perceive its honeyed, malty personality and undernotes of cocoa. Following suggested brewing times and water temperature precisely, there is scarcely a way that I can ruin it. Here is promise delivered. And after drinking several cups of this lovely tea, I am focusing on those toasty cocoa notes and setting down ideas about how to build on them. Here is the best of that ideation process:
I chose to make a tea-edged rich chocolate cream sauce to be poured over a simple pound cake or as a dip for seasonal berries. If you‘re lucky enough, score some fresh mulberries with their convenient stems: Perfect for holding onto the fruit between thumb and index finger. You eat mulberries by running them through your front teeth and nibbling around the stem which goes through the berry from top to bottom: A fun end-of-the-meal ritual. Or, even better: First dip them into the following sauce and then gently and carefully place them in your mouth, extracting the stem as you go and then discarding it.
For the sauce, I like to choose a dark, bittersweet chocolate. Preferably a quality bar from a good brand — Valrhona, Weiss, Guittard — with approximately 70% representing the total of its cocoa butter and cocoa solids content (which indicates that the sugar is rather reduced, making it a perfect complement to sweet berries).
Here are the particulars:
- Count on 4 ounces of chocolate per serving to each 6 ounces of heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon tea leaves
- Chop the chocolate and place into a heatproof bowl. Set aside.
- In a small, heavy-bottomed sauce, bring the cream to simmer. Add the tea and allow to infuse for about 15 minutes.
- Pour through a fine meshed sieve, set over a clean saucepan. Press hard on the tea leaves to extract as much flavor and color as possible.
- Now bring the sieved cream just to the boil and immediately pour it over the chocolate in the bowl. Allow to sit about a minute to facilitate melting the chocolate. Stir until completely smooth. You can now refrigerate it for use the next day or later in the day you made it—this should keep refrigerated for about a week in a tightly covered container.
- When ready to use, simply place the sauce into a stainless bowl that fits snugly over a small pot of hot, not boiling water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water in the pot.
- Stir once or twice to ensure that the sauce is smooth and fully melted. Reserve there until ready to serve.
Serving suggestions: Pour some over one or more of the following:
- Buttery pound cake
- Good quality vanilla ice cream
- Sliced peak-of-season strawberries
- Baked custard
- Or use as a dipping sauce for fresh mulberries or any other berries currently best at the market
Photo “Yum! Chocolate!” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Liz West and is being posted unaltered (source)