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Tea and Truffle Tasting Experience by Karen Richardson

When Ann Louise Roswald, Creative Director of H. R. Higgins, asked me if I’d like to sample their tea and truffle pairing in return for writing a few words about the experience, I was happy to accept. I quickly told my closest group of friends, fellow dog-walkers who I see while out walking most days come rain, shine or bitter coastal wind. We promptly planned our tasting event. This was back in October, before Lockdown 2.0 was announced when we were casually enjoying the relative freedoms of the East Kent Coast in Tier 1.

Launch date for H. R. Higgins Coffee-Man’s collaboration with The Highland Chocolatier, Iain Burnett was 5th November 2020. My perfectly wrapped parcel with dramatic black satin ribbon and custom designed paper arrived soon after.

The issue now was how to navigate November’s Lockdown restrictions and continue with our group tasting, as planned. A video call would be the only way, as none of us could bear to wait for December’s new rules (a good decision in turns out with Kent jumping up two places to Tier 3!).nWe would be three households; our single tasting flight was divided, and we arranged our Zoom session, with Ann Louise planning to join us from her Yorkshire base.

The full Chocolate and Tea Tasting Flight includes four types of tea, generously supplied in 125g bags, with four of each of the paired truffles, plus a further four truffles which aren’t part of the tasting but as an added extra flavour sensation. Don’t be deceived by their dainty demeanour; the truffles are rich, and the recommendation is to cut each one into quarters – in order to sip and savour the flavours, going backwards and forwards between tea and truffle to experience the different layers.

Their roots maybe in coffee beans, but H. R. Higgins are clearly just as fanatical about tea. Tony and David Higgins present a 30-minute guided session on YouTube, father and son taste the teas and truffles together – a tutorial for those who want to delve a little deeper into the experience, it’s optional but highly recommended. Watching the film, you not only to learn some techniques of tasting tea, it also provides a warm and wonderful insight into a father-son relationship, it’s a gentle Slow-food-esque wander through tea drinking.

Our tasting journey begins with a White Lime and a Hint of Chilli Velvet Truffle paired with Ceylon Dimbula, a black tea, from Sri Lanka. The tea leaves are a beautiful rich chocolate brown colour, and very finely cut. Don’t over brew the tea we are warned! It’s a full bodied traditional English style tea in flavour. Paired with the citrus Lime truffle the tea tastes bright and zesty, “like having a slice of lemon” with just the hint of chilli perfectly pairing with the warmth of the rich tea. It’s a strong start.

White Raspberry Heather Honey Velvet Truffle is next to be paired with Japanese Cherry Green Tea. The important note here is not to use boiling water, scorching the leaves will damage the flavour irrevocably.

Here the truffle noticeably alters the taste of the tea, the heather honey heightens the sweetness of cherry fruit flavours which are perfectly balanced with the acidity from raspberry and classic refreshing green tea notes and - our group found the influence of the truffle particularly striking, Liz who confessed to not being a fan of fruit tea went on to score it 10 out of 10! We drew parallels with the effects of a good dessert wine and reached an unanimous verdict that this tea and truffle combination would make a fabulous alternative for the end of a meal.

Next up a Lemongrass with a hint of Lime Velvet Praline Truffle paired with Earl Grey, a black Chinese tea flavoured with the oil of Bergamot (which is a type of orange grown in Calabria in Italy). Golden in colour the tea is beautifully fragrant and even before we taste the truffle statements such as “this is the nicest Earl Grey I’ve ever tasted in my life” are heard being voiced in our Zoom room. Our first praline truffle of the tasting; the rich hazelnut flavours are at the forefront, developed further by the intensity of the heady orange oil from the tea – and just when you think it’s all over, the lemongrass and lime kick in on the finish to refresh the palate ready for another piece of truffle and sip of tea. So many layers and flavours, there is a lot to process and at this point we realise that allowing only an hour for this tasting experience may not be long enough.

Undeterred by time restraints we push on to the next combination of Masala Chai paired with an Orange and Hint of Clove Velvet Truffle. Yes, it feels like Christmas has come early highlighting all of the joys that the combination of hot spicy tea with rich orange and dark chocolate ganache bring. It’s a timeless, perfect pairing that brings warmth and even tastes a little bit boozy – once again we all have ideas of making this the pudding at the end of the meal and we dream about sitting by a fireplace in a beautiful hotel or log cabin – it does feel suited to winter, but of course our H. R. Higgins host is quick to point out that Masala Chai is India’s most popular drink, and transcends all boundaries it’s primarily a herbal tea, refreshing and revitalising renowned for its anti-inflammatory health and well-being properties.

And just when we think it’s all over again, we discover the final truffle a standalone Milk Chocolate Signature Chai Truffle made by The Highland Chocolatier, Iain Burnett with H.R. Higgins Duke Street Blend tea with cinnamon, ginger, clove and cardamon.

We finished up with a quick vote on our favourite, which of course was split although we were all in agreement on the top-notch Earl Grey and that the last 60-minutes had been fun, informative and a lovely way to spend some time together online.

Top Tea and Truffle Tasting Tips:

Cut your truffles into quarters to allow layers of flavours to develop with each bite.

A temperature-controlled kettle is useful, but otherwise a meat thermometer will also work

Glass teapots are beautiful things and will allow you to see the stunning range of colours that brewing tea offers.

You will feel surprisingly full after the tasting and the caffeine definitely kicks in.

Tea drinking is for life, not just for Christmas!

With thanks to @Danielleroughanart and @joakley for joining the tasting fun and to @liz.gregg for the photography. And to @hrhiggins and @Annlouiseroswalddesign for the opportunity.


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