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Pu’erh & Chocolate: What’s Not to Like?

I’ve never been a coffee drinker.  I tried when I was a Freshman in college, mainly because everyone else drank coffee.  They served coffee and doughnuts in the morning in my dorm great room on the weekend.  While I loved the aroma, I didn’t like the taste unless I poured in cream and sugar.  Even diluted, coffee made me jittery.  As I wasn’t a doughnut eater and given that the coffee made me feel strange, I let it go.  It wasn’t until my forties that I started to drink tea in the morning, and more to warm me up than wake me up.

In recent years I’ve grown quite fond of tea, usually drinking green during the day and a decaffeinated tea in the evening such as Numi’s Vanilla Nights decaf.  When I took the Pu’erh challenge I thought it would be an interesting way to learn more about a tea with a big history in China.  I hadn’t expected that I would get hooked.  I am.

How does this tie in with chocolate?  Well, a friend at Guittard sent me seven pound-sized blocks of single-origin chocolates so that I can compare the varietals and blog about them.  Tough job as you can imagine.   The chocolate has been sitting on the table now for a couple of days as I consider how I want to approach this delicious challenge.  Given that it’s February, and everyone eats chocolate in February, I want to come up with some unusual recipes.

One area I want to explore is using chocolate in savory applications.  And actually, I’d like to do the same with tea.  By adding tea to a recipe you can create greater depth of flavor.  With chocolate you have to be careful not to overpower the other ingredients.  A little goes a long way.

Both chocolate and tea are very high in antioxidants, and have medicinal properties.  Pu’erh is legendary in China as medicine and chocolate was legendary in the Americas for its medicinal uses.  Both pu’erh and chocolate are known to provide stamina and long-term energy.  I’m now thinking about whether combining pu’erh and chocolate in a recipe is feasible.  With the pu’erh’s malty depth, it might actually work.  Need to contemplate how to proceed on this.  In the meantime, I’ve been taking nibbles off of some of the chocolate blocks to enjoy with an afternoon cup of pu’erh.  Helps me to stay focused at the computer and with a treat as my “carrot.”

Any of you readers have thoughts on unusual recipes for tea and/or chocolate?

Patricia Rain
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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.

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