Trying some Young Pu-erh awhile back and then looking into various chocolate teas gave me an idea: chocolate pu-erh. Actually, considering the caffeine content which is close to a cuppa coffee, the beverage hubby and I concocted (after a bit of experimenting) is better called “mocha” pu-erh.
There is a chocolate pu-erh or two on the market and certainly a plethora of teas with some sort of chocolate flavoring added to them. So why not just have one of these? Simple: they don’t have a good chocolate flavor balanced with the tea flavor. A good shot of caffeine was a goal, too. We weren’t looking for caffeine at espresso level (about 500g is one of those little cupfuls), nor even regular coffee (90g in an 8-oz cup) — more the level of the South American herbal guayusa (about 50g per 8-oz cup). Actually, we were more interested in combining that distinct earthy taste of the pu-erh with the rich, smooth, sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet taste and texture of chocolate.
NOTE: This isn’t a true mocha beverage. True mocha is a rich Arabian coffee. Mocha beverages in the U.S. are basically those that have some coffee in them usually combined with chocolate.
We started our experiment the way some of you may start creating some special dish that is all your own: find a similar recipe and work from there. We started with a chocolate tea recipe whose concept was pretty simple: an equal quantity of steeped tea and of milk (whole milk is strongly recommended), plus some form of chocolate, either syrup, cocoa powder, or (as professionals use) cocoa nibs. Optional is a big dollop of whipped cream on top of the hot beverage in the mug.
However, our recipe ended up a bit different, as you will soon find out. Happens a lot in kitchen experiments. Tea is no exception.
We started with 1 cup of water and a teaspoon of Young Pu-erh dry tea leaves. We steeped this for 8 minutes (you could steep for as long as 10 minutes if you want a stronger tea taste) and strained it into a measuring cup. [The secret here is to steep up the pu-erh fairly strong. The Young Pu-erh is not in a brick, cake, or tuocha (mini-cake), so it is easy to use. I do not “rinse” this tea, as is recommended for other pu-erhs. (See Part I and Part II of my review of this tea.)]
Then, we put 1 cup of whole milk in a saucepan and heated it on the stove to just when the simmer started. At that point, we added the steeped pu-erh liquid and stirred to be sure it was well blended with the milk. We simmered this combo for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally to be sure the milk did not burn on the bottom of the pan. So far, so good.
Here comes the tricky part and where following the chocolate tea recipe we found led us astray. That recipe called for 4 ounces of chocolate (an ounce per cupful). We stirred into the saucepan a full 2.5-ounce package of a locally-available cocoa mix, whisking as we added the dry powder, about a third at a time. (If you decide to use chocolate syrup instead, be sure that it melts completely.) We removed the pot from the stove and prepared to taste our latest concoction.
First, the aroma: very chocolaty. Then, the taste: very chocolaty — very very!
Now, I have to pause here to point out something important: hubby and I tend to like straight teas without flavorings because too many times the flavor of the tea gets “drowned out” by those additives. Here the flavor of the pu-erh, which was pretty strong, was not just drowned but totally washed out to sea. Just a bit of flotsam on the foamy brine. Uh, well, anyway, it was way too chocolaty. What to do? What to do?
We steeped another cup of Young Pu-erh and added it to the mix, simmering a minute or two to make sure it was hot. Then, another taste test. Still chocolaty but the earthy pu-erh flavor was coming through. We contemplated steeping another cup of pu-erh but opted not to. Good thing because as the mix cooled slightly, the chocolate flavor subdued a bit so that it was more balanced with the earthiness.
We also opted to skip the whipped cream, thinking it would have been a bit much under the circumstances.
To sum up, use twice as much pu-erh liquid as milk, and go easy on the chocolate. We recommend that you start with about an ounce of chocolate to 2 cups of tea and 1 cup of milk. Do a taste test. Add a little more chocolate if needed and taste again. Repeat until you get that balance of earthiness with chocolaty-ness. If you’re feeling a bit silly, bob one of those big-sized marshmallows in your mug.
Warning: This hot beverage has been shown to be habit-forming and even downright addictive, but oh so worth it!
Don’t miss A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!