This year for our Christmas column we're getting our chocolate on. First, by visiting Melt, one of our favourite chocolate shops in London, and then by making some deliciously rich Rare Tea Company truffles (recipe below).
Known for their sophisticated and playful handmade chocolates using luxury ingredients, Melt have been winning praises and awards since launching in 2006 in West London. For the chocolate lover on your Christmas list (even if that person is you), or for show-stopping petit fours to bring to a Christmas dinner, Melt have come up with some delightful seasonal specials. Their light and exotic Snowball bonbons are made of white milk chocolate and filled with passion fruit, coconut and marshmallow, while the marzipan square with candied citrus fruit is made with an unusually delicate touch, and an assortment of winter spices including nutmeg and cinnamon. Melt are also selling beautiful tree ornaments filled with caramel popcorn, and have created a seasonally sparkly Byzantine Christmas chocolate collection.
While taking their lead from Melt’s head chocolatier Chica Watanabe, they also have a history of distinguished collaborations, including with Michelin star chef Skye Gyngell, cookery writer Sophie Conran, and The River Café. This season they’ve collaborated with one of London’s leading restaurateurs, Mark Hix, to create a Winter Collection, including a dark chocolate bonbon with a lusciously jammy blackberry filling, and a dark chocolate square with rosehip and hibiscus jelly, layered with vanilla ganache. From their classic collection, we discovered the buttery and delicate wild Bolivian chocolate truffle, and loved the sea salted caramel bonbon, a Melt clientele favourite with an unexpected liquidity. For children, we recommend the sweet Tonka square – nutty praline, crunchy feuillantine, and wafer with the aroma of tonka beans. Purchased individually or in boxes, Melt’s guaranteed online Christmas orders are now closed but you can still visit the shop to indulge in some holiday treats.
"Melt's Winter Collection includes a dark chocolate bonbon with a lusciously jammy blackberry filling, and a dark chocolate square with rosehip and hibiscus jelly, layered with vanilla ganache."
The below recipe for Emperor’s Breakfast Tea Truffles comes from Henrietta Lovell, the charismatic proprietress of the Rare Tea Company. Lovell founded Rare Tea in 2004 with a mission to transform the way we drink tea in the UK and beyond, by sourcing the best teas from around the world. Among the wide array of exotic specimens stocked by Rare Tea, Emperor's Breakfast is perhaps the closest to the black tea that we would drink on an everyday basis. Lovell says, “Emperor’s Breakfast is the same style of tea as an ordinary tea bag but made extraordinary. It is crafted by masters, not processed by a machine. The flavour is wonderfully smooth and sweet with flavours of burnt sugar and caramel. Infused in the cream, it adds a deep malty note with a softly bitter depth to the truffles.”
Also for this Christmas, Lovell has tasked herself with making the ritual of tea more appealing to men by making it less twee. Playing up to a masculine impulse towards connoisseurship, she says: “Like fine wine, good tea is a real pleasure. But just as you wouldn’t drink Krug from a tooth mug or make chateaubriand on a disposable barbeque – you need a good cup and the right kit. We’ve put together the perfect set any man would be proud to put on his desk. No chintz. No doilies, no hearts or flowers. Just cool, practical style.”
Emperor’s Breakfast Tea Truffles
These truffles couldn't be easier to make, and will go down a storm after dinner, or even at an indulgent Christmas breakfast.
550g good dark chocolate- at least 70% cocoa (there are so few ingredients in the recipe it’s worth getting the best you can afford!).
270ml double cream
5g Emperor’s Breakfast Tea
· Put 5g of Emperor’s Breakfast Tea leaves into the cream in a saucepan.
· Chop the chocolate into very fine pieces and put in a large bowl.
· Heat the cream and the tea gently until small bubbles appear at the edges of the pan.
· Using a fine sieve strain the cream into the chocolate and stir until melted.
· Let the mixture cool and then pop into the fridge for a ½ an hour.
· Spoon out teaspoons of the truffles mix and roll into balls and roll drop them in cocoa powder.
You can still order from the Rare Tea website with guaranteed delivery before Christmas (first class only) until the 20th. There are also a wide range of stockists in the UK, including Selfridges, Waitrose, and Bottle Apostle. It's really worth going to the website for Lovell’s advice on how to make a perfect cup and get the most out of your tea.
Text by Ananda Pellerin and Neil Wissink