Sunday, 6 September 2009

Affinities: Tea and Chocolate

My good friend Jonathan is a big fan of L'Artisan du Chocolat, the London based chocolate company. He recently showed me their TBars, chocolate infused with Darjeeling or matcha. Never one to hesitate over either tea or chocolate, I enthusiastically made my way to their new Westbourne Grove shop to sample these bars.

The pairing of tea and chocolate has a long heritage but according to Lydia Gautier, the combining of tea and melted chocolate only began in the 1980s, using at first only flavoured tea such as Earl Grey and Jasmine. The attempt to create a chocolate that marries the development of aromas in 'grand cru' teas and that of the chocolate only really began in the 1990s with the work of chocolatier Jacques Genin. He tried to create a product in which the respective properties of both the tea and the chocolate harmonised and enhanced each other.
In her book The Chocolate Connoisseur ChloƩ Doutre-Roussel says of him
"Like a perfumer, he intuits the flavour associations, the interactions and harmonies between them. When preparing a ganache, he knows the dance the aromas will perform."
Unfortunately, the TBars don't live up to this standard. Everything I love about Darjeeling was absent from the chocolate. The bar, made from Madagascan beans, is too dark and fruity for this delicate, acidic tea. The matcha bar was better but it is hard to detect any aromas over the sugar punch. Made with cocoa butter rather than cocoa, it had a negligent after taste. Very easy to eat, but not much to appreciate.

Next time in Paris I'll make a pilgrimage to Jacques Genin shop in the Marais and hopefully bring back some of his Puerh chocolates. In the meantime here is a video of him (in French) at his shop.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Name Change

I recently had the wierd experience of the blog being mentioned by the New York Times in a an article about the Covent Garden Real Food Fair where I was, apparently, going to be on hand to discuss my favourite recipes etc... The wierd part was that it was also news to me.
A little bit of investigation revealed that there is a British food blog called More Tea, Vicar which is clearly who the NY Times were meant to link through.

Even though getting a plug from an international news paper is pretty exciting, I would rather it was for my own musings so I've decided to change the title of my blog. "More Tea Vicar?" (something an old friend would say to me over endless cups of tea in Bristol) is perhaps a bit whimsical and was never meant to be permanent. So welcome to The Vital Oolong!
"The Vital Oolong" is in turn a reference to P.G. Wodehouse, a writer I hold in some esteem. On the grayest of London days, or after a particularly boneheaded day at work, he never fails to cheer me up - much like a cup of tea.