Friday, June 18, 2021

Jelina Chocolatier: Matcha Green Tea White Chocolate

Having found Jelina Chocolatier's chocolates favorable of late and having also an interest in white chocolate, I deemed their Matcha Green Tea White Chocolate perfect for trying next. The now familiar brown card box this time features a matcha whisk and steaming serving of tea along with just a light wash of bright green. 

The chocolate itself has more than a light wash, though. If ruby chocolate was exciting for people who love pink, this green chocolate was exciting for me as a green-lover. Green is my neutral, so I have a lot of green things and immediately started gathering small props I could add to the chocolate's picture. Because white chocolate on its own is essentially colorless, adding matcha to white chocolate does create pretty much the exact shade of matcha powder on the chocolate. It does appear a tad brighter and more neon in the pictures. If I adjusted the angle or the lighting, though, it looked too pale; so I kept with the more neon ones instead because they give a better idea.

The wondrousness of green aside, the other thing that is more exciting about matcha white chocolate than ruby chocolate is of course that we know exactly how this color is obtained. It's white chocolate with matcha powder added to it. As simple as that. No questions about how they got the color or how the flavor will come across. The only other flavor they added is vanilla, which of course you will find in any white chocolate. 

Accompanying the chocolate's buttery, white chocolate aroma is just a hint of green tea. For my background, I drink green tea every morning these days, but I don't really ever have matcha specifically. So while I have less experience with the beverage itself, the basic flavor is pretty much green tea. There are so many types of green tea (I've been enjoying Sencha Superior at home right now) all with their own subtleties, but that basic base flavor is a familiar neutral to me. 

On the first taste, you get both that green tea flavor and the buttery white chocolate. The tea has that fresh and strong sense to it. Again, there are no artificial flavorings here; that isn't how Jelina Chocolatier operates. So there is no faux flavor, and tea being a strong flavor (like coffee) you can definitely taste it. The pairing of that flavor along with the sweetness (there's no getting around the fact that white chocolate by default is always very sweet) and milkiness and creamy texture of the white chocolate is interesting. Usually I don't associate green tea with lattes, but that's definitely the effect here. Traditional matcha is just made with water, but whether water or milk or more common in coffee/tea shops or homes nowadays I don't know. Certainly if you're used to matcha lattes, this chocolate will better replicate that specific experience. 

Either way, though, this is flavored chocolate not a cup of tea, so it's expected to be a fusion of flavor experiences. Using white chocolate versus milk or dark means that the matcha is the focus, and I can't picture it any other way. A truffle with a matcha center, though, would be nice. Hmmm, Valerie Confections makes matcha truffles; perhaps this winter I'll order some. 

Matcha may be a little bit on trend right now (and also be an acquired taste), yet this chocolate is better than trends. The simple and pure ingredients give it quality, and the matcha and cocoa butter speak for themselves as far as flavor. It's a nice treat if you have a bit of a sweet tooth but also have a specific palate (like I do) and don't necessarily love the same sweets as everyone else does. And it would make for a fun gift for a tea lover. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Theo: Coffee Toffee 70%

I've been coming across plenty of coffee chocolate these days. There has perhaps been more milk chocolate than dark chocolate, so today we have a classic dark chocolate combination with Theo's Coffee Toffee in their 70% Dark Chocolate. The design is traditional Theo, with chocolate squares and coffee beans and toffee pieces set against a pale tan slash on a white background. Not only does the look balance out details and minimalism, it is also informative: toffee is one of those words that can mean a couple different things when it comes to chocolate bars. Here we know that toffee will mean crunchy toffee candy in small pieces.

The eight squares of chocolate have a simple dark chocolate aroma; there is only a bare hint of coffee. The suggestion, then, is that this will not be one of the strong coffee hit chocolates. Because I knew there would be texture from both the toffee and the coffee, from the start I knew this would be a munching chocolate rather than a melting chocolate. But you can still munch slowly: the crunchy pieces are small enough as to not be tooth-breaking or even much tooth-sticking. Large pieces of toffee can be that way, you know--though don't we love toffee, anyway? That said, there is still enough of normal toffee texture in here that you still have the entertainment of it. 

There is something of toffee's crystal sugar flavor in here, as well. You have that hint in the beginning part of each bite, and the coffee bean flavor comes in more towards the second half or even last third. And yes, it is specifically a coffee bean flavor rather than simply coffee flavor. Proportionally, it's mild within the context of other flavors, but in and of itself it has that stronger, sharper tone. The strongest coffee flavor, proportionally, comes perhaps in the aftertaste in that first moment after the chocolate has melted away. 

Theo's dark chocolate makes for a good base for all of this. They make a good and solid dark chocolate that still isn't too striking or full of flavor notes on its own--which means that it works well for flavored chocolate because you can enjoy the added flavors. Besides the fun element of its slight, sugary flavor, the toffee greatly enhances the texture. In fact, I do believe Theo may have found a creative solution here to the problem of coffee chocolate texture. I've done some exploring in reviews lately on different sizes of coffee grounds within chocolate. Grainy texture is usually odd, and sometimes even making the grains bigger seems to help. But in this chocolate, I can hardly tell what size the coffee grounds are because my mind thinks I'm just getting toffee texture. And that's great. I get fun toffee texture along with coffee flavor. It's quite a genius solution. 

In the world of coffee chocolates, here the style is not the latte-evocative, seamless blending of coffee and chocolate. That isn't the intended effect or goal here. Here we just have a nice dark chocolate with good texture and some coffee flavor. It's a nice option if you're less into the creamy/milky/latte type of coffee chocolate. I enjoy that style, but I like this one as well. Despite the bit of ingenuity with the toffee texture, this chocolate bar has a classic feel to it. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

What Was Before

At the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, the Gateway Loop Trail will take you on a four and a half mile, moderately difficult circle around the nearest peak. The rocks are great; the saguaros are great; the teddy bear chollas are great; the ocotillo are great. And so are the fresh air and exercise. But you know the thing about simple trails? Sometimes they have secrets hidden in plain sight.

You won't find it on the trail maps, but Google Maps shows a little spot marked Old Mission Fort just off of the main trail. If you turned left to get onto the loop trail, then you can turn left at the second to last turnoff--that is, the Crossover Trail. If you turned right, then it'll be a right turn at the second turnoff. Turn the corner from the Crossover Trail and there you will find the light ruins of a near-forgotten building.

Museums take time and money and commitment. And, well, there also has to be the need and want for a particular museum in a particular spot. So sometimes old buildings get museums. Sometimes they just end up as near-forgotten ruins hidden in plain sight (or of course also sometimes hidden deeply). You could take the main loop trail a thousand times and never know this was here. 

It isn't the most terribly exciting to view. Just some blocks marking a basic foundation and size and shape. But it's enough for the imagination and enough for conversation. Who built it and when? How many times did it change ownership? Who lived here last? What did it look like in its prime? How many other buildings were nearby? 

Trying to research the place online doesn't bring up much. As the name suggests, it appears to have at one point been connected to the fort and at one point to have been a mission and also to have been a private residence related to the mine. If anyone knows of any books that reference it, I would certainly be interested. But beyond the specifics of who lived or worked in this building, it's simply nice to have a bit of a reminder of the past. A hundred years or so is such a short time ago, and yet still it sets the mind to thinking.

The paths we walk have been walked before by different feet. Some things were much the same and some things were quite different. It's just something to ponder: my life is just one life in a great big history of lives. 

(And just a reminder, take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints. And stay on the trail. If preservation doesn't matter to you, at least remember that rattlesnakes are not a myth.)