Posted by: ben | April 29, 2009

abyss me like you mean it

choccyabyssheader

(title with apologies to The Magnetic Fields)

Ben: I couldn’t go to all those nice teahouses in Scotland and not come back with something, could I?

On the shelf under the counter at Eteaket are rows and rows of little aquamarine pots. These pots contain all the teas they offer instore, only in handy non-wet form for you to take home and try as you like. All the teahouses we visited offered something similar but as Edinburgh was our last day and we had a little change to spend, I bought a small pot of the tea I didn’t actually try whilst sat there basking in the sun. As much as I have derided them in the past, when done properly black teas can be mixed with all sorts of other ingredients to make really different brews. I hadn’t tried a chocolate mix before and given that Eteaket seemed like professional, passionate types who’d do something like that properly, I opted to get a caddy of their Chocolate Abyss.

It’s not just some black tea leaves mixed with some cocoa powder, oh no. Eteaket describe it as

black tea […] expertly mixed with real chocolate pieces, cocoa bits and coconut flakes. What’s not to like? Lose yourself in the moment: it’s like eating a huge slab of chocolate cake but without the calories.

Ooh!

Swanky Packaging

Swanky packaging!

Cutting open the bag inside the tube (it’s unsurprising to see a plastic bag in packaging of this sort but it’s still a little disappointing), Eteaket’s description is pretty redundant. See, just looking at the mix you can see the twisted Anhui black tea leaves, the brown bits of chocolate, the cocoa and the great shavings of coconut. When some teas are opened up for the first time, their contents are an utter mystery (I’m looking at you, every flavoured rooibos out there). This is a big, blatant mix of things. Arthur Slugworth would have no problems figuring this one out.

It was a bit tricky getting what I considered to be a good mix into my infuser. I didn’t want to pick up too much coconut or too much chocolate because a tea like this should be about the careful balance between the different elements. Easy to knacker up with a bit of sloppiness. Having established what I thought was about the right amount, I boiled the water and poured onto the infuser.

Odd thing about this tea: because there’s chocolate in it which melts at 37.5 degrees (body heat, fact fans), the addition of boiling water melts the chocolate pretty much instantly. The result is a cup of very muddy looking water which, over three minutes or so, becomes progressively more crimson. It does look like a sample taken from a rusty water tank for a little bit, which is off-putting.

Chocolatea

Mudtea chocolatea

The tasting directions encourage drinking this without milk or sugar. Being a well-trained consumer, I did as instructed and, after brewing, let the tea cool a little and sipped cautiously. It’s got a round, caramelly taste to it but frustratingly for me the tea taste was not especially prominent. Bizarrely, the coconut was the remarkable element here – the tea and chocolate occupy moreorless the same place on the tongue but the coconut has its own unique creamy swirl as a separate note.

As I wasn’t getting on with it as well as I’d hoped, I added a tiny bit of milk and sugar. This is a black tea so is allowed. The Tea Appreciation Society should make this so.

This transformed the tea entirely. It’s not especially complex and doesn’t do as much as, say, a Ceylon Black, but what it does to is make a very well-rounded, drinkable everyday tea. The chocolate is enhanced by the sugar and the coconut is enhanced by the milk to give a much fuller, creamier feel.

It’s not perfect, by any means. The black teas I really like are all smoky and it’s precisely that element that’s missing here. People who really like artisan chocolate will talk to you about full, round ‘mouthfeel’ which precisely what a smoky black tea would give this blend. The brew washes over your tongue without leaving much aftertaste at all, pleasant or otherwise. That’s a great shame and is what really lets this down. This is the sort of blend that ideally suited to take to work to sip whilst at the keyboard – distinct enough to raise it far above an average blend but not notable enough to be considered a treat. At this price, that’s what I think I’ll do.

Ben was drinking Eteaket’s Chocolate Abyss, available from ¬£1.99 for 50g.

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