A Sensual Feast of Tea And Chocolate

An Extraordinary Experience

I have just experienced an adventurous evening of tea and chocolate pairing at Soma Chocolatemaker, in downtown Toronto, organized by The Tea Guild of Canada.

Some of the fine chocolate artistry that we sampled

We were met by Soma’s guide Samantha. As she lead us through the tasting of each morsel, she explained its place of origin and the close relationship the chocolatier had with their farm sources, confirming for me that specialty chocolate sourcing has parallels to direct-sourced fine tea.

Samantha of Soma Chocolatemaker

Curiously, some of the chocolate samples were made in the form of tasting bars. These rectangular strips had a thumb depression at one end. Samantha suggested we rub this impression with our thumbs to warm up the chocolate, then sniff it and then crack the bar in half next to our ear. A nice crack is an indication that the chocolate has an even distribution of cocoa fats.

Soma's tasting bars

A few examples of our tasting:

Milk Old School  

A roughly ground Chuoa cacao in a log shaped roll. This chocolate had plenty of texture but still smooth on the palate with a little satisfying hit of dairy.

♦Paired with Puttabong 1st flush Darjeeling from Camellia Sinensis Tea House. Perhaps the chocolate was a bit overpowering for the tea, but each sip was refreshing and as Darjeeling tends to do, it set the world to rights.

Puttabong Estate's 1st flush Darjeeling from Camellia Sinensis Tea House

Tien Giang Vietnam

(70% cacao) from small holder growers in the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam.

♦Paired with Long Jing green tea from Tao Tea Leaf. I was surprised at how well these two stars intermingled, especially considering that one of them was green tea! I expected competition for my palate’s attention, but Tien Giang’s cherry and hazelnut flavours lived harmoniously with the familiar chestnut and buttery texture of Long Jing.

Bergamot Orange Truffle

This oblong shaped truffle was made with Mr. Freddie Salazar’s Ecuadorian chocolate. It was followed by a tasting sample of the same farm’s 70% cacao.

♦Both were paired with Tao Tea Leaf’s Tie Guan Yin (Anxi old style). This Oolong has a slight roast, but that familiar TGY fragrance was still forefront. The Bergamot truffle had presence, and it was suggested that we could just enjoy this one on its own, but the pairing was pleasant. I will just interject here, that our minds were skewed to the chocolate. The tea was secondary, so anytime the pairing performed well it was a double fantasy!

Bergamot Orange Truffle

Next up, a rare Criollo, named Guasare, from Venezuela. Criollo is the ‘holy grail’ of chocolate, comprising only 1% of the world’s supply. It was thought to be an original breed that had all but died out, but Soma has sourced a farmer who has been rescuing it from extinction.Their beans contain 75% of the original plant’s genetic material.
♦We enjoyed this tasting bar with Balhyocha from Soocha Tea. Korean black tea lovers will recognize strong hints of chocolate which makes it a no brainer for this paring, but is a treat to drink on its own. The pairing was exquisite and the chocolate had a melting texture that definitely engaged the pleasure centres of my brain!

Pièce de Résistance

Star-shaped peach mango truffle

The pièce de résistance of the evening was a truffle created to emulate the experience of eating a mango or its North American cousin, the peach. Designed as a ‘one off’ Mother’s Day truffle, it ended up becoming a favourite and as a result, part of Soma’s truffle catalogue. The story behind the perfect chemistry of flavours originates in San Francisco at the studio of the goddess of fine scent, Mandy Aftel. This pairing of minds and craft will likely happen again with other masters of their universes.
The star shaped truffle possessed a delicacy that was subtle but seriously seductive.

♦Da Hong Pao was this chocolate’s date for the evening and they certainly enjoyed each other’s company!

All tea’d out, there was just one little morsel left to try – a fruit bar that would normally be considered white chocolate, but because it contained no dairy, was not allowed that category. This thin bar was made of plums, warm spice and Okinawa black sugar. It was like a refined, silky version of Chinese preserved plum.

The Shop

The chocolatier stayed open so that we could shop. As I wandered the well-stocked shelves. I was drawn to their asthetic. All the packaging reflects the thoughtfulness of everything I’ve noticed about this company. Wrapped in beautifully illustrated fine stock papers, the varied selection of chocolate offerings reflected the creative and sensitive approach the makers take to asking what chocolate is and what it can be. I bought some of the Milk Old School logs that we tasted with the Darjeeling. I also found some green chocolate that wasn’t made from matcha – could this be possible? Soma’s green chocolate is made with Styrian pumpkin seed oil from Austria that is super fragrant and very green. It is deliciously nutty.

 

Milk Old School - a cruchy treat of rough ground cacao

Twilight Forest Bark. Green comes from Styrian Pumpkin seed oil (Austria)

I’m lucky that I live in mid-town Toronto just a short streetcar ride away from the shop. I’m also the same distance from their new Brock St. Cacao Bean Lab. Oh yes! I’ll be visiting.

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  4. Makeover: The Common Violet gets Sugared and Iced
  5. Monkey Time!

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