All in Pairings

Iced Cocoa Nib Chai Tea Latte

Have you ever noticed that it’s almost impossible to get an unsweetened (or even lightly sweetened) chai latte in coffee shops, tea shops, cafes or bakeries? Chai lattes are almost always made from a chai concentrate, a fancy name for chai flavored syrup, which means you can’t have an unsweetened chai latte. I don’t enjoy sweetened drinks and this is one of those things that I find extremely frustrating, second only to fine dining restaurants serving awful tea. I understand that most establishments have constraints in the preparation of drinks, but there must be a solution. I was craving a good unsweetened iced chai tea latte and my only option was to make it myself from scratch.

Tea and chocolate: Something new on the palate

Tea is an incredibly versatile beverage. Have you ever tried sipping tea while savoring high-quality chocolate? If the answer is no, you’re missing out on a unique sensory experience. Tasting tea and chocolate together can help amp up both of their delightful nuances. And because we all secretly need an excuse to eat more chocolate, this looks like a perfectly acceptable one, and it’s virtually guilt-free, because, after all, it’s also a tea tasting.

My tasting notes: Nilgiri Blue Mountain Frost Tea

Darjeeling and Assam are the most renowned tea producing regions in India, but they are not the only ones. The tea I’m tasting today comes from the Nilgiris or Blue Mountains in the state of Tamil Nadu, in Southern India. According to the Indian tea association, Nilgiri tea accounts for about 10% of the total tea production of India.
 

Matcha madeleines


Some days, I find myself craving matcha. Does that ever happen to you? I crave the chawan in my hands, the powder on my fingers, the swoosh of the chasen, the pattern of the tiny bubbles on the surface and the aromas and texture and flavor. It’s irresistible. Some other days, I crave whatever edible and colorful pops up on my Instagram feed and that’s exactly what happened when my sister Chiara made her matcha madeleines dipped in white chocolate and those popped up on my feed… they’ve been on my mind ever since! 

My tasting notes: Gold tea from Nepal

This is a very experimental tea brewing and tasting session with a black tea from Nepal. Instead of Western style, I brewed it in a gaiwan (but I have to specify, not gongfu cha style) to push it to the edge of flavor and aroma, to get a more concentrated brew. It was a series of trial and error and adjustments to the brewing parameters, but I’m happy with the results. 

The marine layer tea cocktail

I am a huge fan of craft cocktails and I probably don’t have to tell you that I’m always on the lookout for tea-infused craft cocktails wherever I go. Recently, I’ve realized that 99% of the already scarce tea cocktails available on the local imbibing scene feature Earl Grey. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good Earl Grey tea cocktail, but I believe it’s high time bartenders tried something new. To make up for the lack of other teas in the craft cocktail world, I have a beautiful recipe for you. When I don’t go out, I love playing bartender at home. Let’s be honest, sipping a fancy, creative drink crafted with homemade and locally sourced ingredients and served with great attention to detail is still a fancy affair, even if you are in your pajamas and slippers.

My tasting notes: Da Hong Pao

No matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise, we’re still in the dead of winter. January has brought a lot of rain and grey, overcast skies to San Francisco and I cannot deny the intoxicating allure of bold, charcoal roasted teas. I let my imagination run wild and I picture myself in a forest of tall, majestic redwoods (that’s what we have around here), sitting by the fire and clutching a warm tea cup filled with fragrant Da Hong Pao.

Hojicha mochi muffins with hojicha tahini drizzle

Remember the mochi muffins? I while ago I had shared the recipe for matcha mochi muffins and - to date - it is still one of my most popular posts here on the blog. If you are not familiar with the mochi muffins (which I refuse to believe if you live in the Bay Area), let me tell you what the hype is about. This time around, I’m flavoring the mochi muffins with hojicha, roasted Japanese green tea, which I think pairs really well with the other ingredients.

Pairing Nepali white tea and cheese

It's no secret that I’m an epicurean tea drinker. I find pleasure and excitement in the taste of tea and in pairing it with fine foods. Indulgence, beauty and deliciousness are the principles I live by. I’ve paired tea and cheese many times before and it never ceases to amaze me how two things that are so different can go so well together. You guys love it when I put together a cheese board to pair with tea, so I’ve decided it was high time to do it again. 

Holiday entertaining. Tea and food pairings to wow your guests

With the holiday season officially in full swing, I look forward to holiday parties! I will attend an Alice in Wonderland themed party in December and I hope there will be plenty of tea. I will very likely host some holiday dinner parties too and I’m making a point of introducing everybody to the magic of tea and food pairings. If you, like me, want tea to be the star of your holiday celebrations, I have tried and tested some combinations that will sweep everyone off their feet, from appetizer to dessert.

My favorite smoky tea cocktail

Fall… the most nostalgic, sweet, smoky and luxurious of all seasons. The grape harvest, the weather turning chilly, we go back to craving hot tea, even though we never really abandoned it in the summer. When I was a child, fall meant collecting edible chestnuts with my dog, playing in the fallen leaves and trying to avoid the spiky chestnut pods (ouch, those spiky pods sting!). Chestnuts are delicious roasted on an open fire, they become soft, sweet, smoky and earthy. For me smoky and earthy flavors are the embodiment of fall, which is why I’ve created a tea based cocktail that brings all those notes together. 

My tasting notes: Tung Ting Mi Xiang oolong

How do you taste tea? I’ve realized that I need my “tasting environment” to be conducive and, most importantly, I need to be concentrated, especially when taking tasting notes. I’m very sensitive to sound and a quiet environment is essential for me. Also, a minimalistic and de-cluttered environment can help me focus on the task at hand. You want all your senses to be alert and not distracted by what’s around you. What do you think? What’s your experience?