Few things in life are truly worth waiting for. The birth of a child, the return of a lover, Christmas morning with bucks fizz and wrapping paper covering every inch of the carpet. Considering that list, it would remiss of me not to include Katie’s wonderful, mouth-watering chocolates. As the seasons change you can be assured that Katie from Matcha Chocolat will be creating chocolate that you’d rather be spending more time savouring than writing about, in fact, more time than doing almost anything else. The flavours are typically fascinating, incredibly well-balanced and as defined as you could wish for. But how do this year’s Christmas Selection compare to her previous delectations?
First off, let’s see if you do what I did when I read the list of ingredients of the Mulled Wine & Yuzu ganache: “dark chocolate blended with red wine infused with ginger, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and complimented with a touch of Japanese Whisky and Yuzu juice”? Be honest with me, how far did you get before you licked your lips? I think it was the ginger that did it for me. But just wait until you try it. I literately had goosebumps and shivers as it slowly melted in my mouth. It’s remarkable how half a chocolate could have such a positive physical reaction. The texture was cool, smooth and silky. Whilst the flavour had an indulgent bittersweet characteristic that was very warm as it descended into my dark abyss. The Japanese Whisky became more evident as the peppercorns and cloves subsided. Then the warm softened and the sweet dark chocolate took control. That chocolate melted ever-so slowly and imbued such a feeling of serenity that should only be obtained from illicit substances.
The Spiced Fig had a similarly magnificent texture, just as defined flavour and was just as rich but pushed the flavour profile into a sweeter, earthy direction. Typically figs and I don’t get on so well, but the flavour was incredibly well-rounded and took chocolate into a direction that I’ve not experienced before, but would certainly want to again; the nutmeg and cinnamon had a similar tone to that of the fig so those spices complimented the more dominant fig characteristic.
At last, a real ginger flavoured Christmas treat. Ginger is a flavour that’s so adulterated and abused at this time of year. It’s typically forced into a narrow, oft-trodden path of falsehood. Natural ginger is seemingly rarely used in chocolate or confectionery these days. Here , though, it tasted as if I was nibbling on some raw ginger – with the unpolished edges of the real thing. The caramel serves as a carrier for the spice and doesn’t dominate and overwhelm as you would expect from mass-produced chocolate. The caramel is true to its ingredients, its flavoursome without being excessive, and that’s why I love it.
The Santo Domingo is so incredibly direct. It pulls no punches and has no pretence. Instead it balances bitterness with sweetness in equal measure. It’s a purist’s ganache. Amongst the other excellent, curious and adventurous chocolates in this box it may seem out of place. But I take the view that having a “straight bat” ganache is exactly what you need to reset your taste buds and allow you to appreciate the other flavours more avidly.
As if to further prove that it essential that palettes are cleansed and realigned this superbly natural fresh mint ganache is next to taste. A theme of this box of Christmas chocolates is “natural”, every flavour tastes as if it hasn’t been combined with anything and certainly has never set foot in a factory. Having eaten raw mint and the acids that it possesses I was so pleased that those true flavours were abundant in this ganache. It is simply sublime as much as it is simple. You’ll never see a Bendicks mint chocolate in the same light again.
The Vietnamese Cinnamon was next, and just like the first, it gave me goosebumps. There was a slight acidity that underpins the sweetness and the rounded nature of the cinnamon that holds the experience together. It may not be as expansive as some of the others in the collection, but it’s just as beautiful.
I say it again. This box of chocolates is exactly how flavours should be used, presented and combined. The flavours are imaginative, natural and unique. Their authenticity is rare and the experience as satisfying as any I’ve ever enjoyed. I suggest that some might not get this box – they’re the sort that’d crave the “chocolate by numbers” approach. They’d want to taste faux sugar with fake ingredients and they’d want their chocolates to last through next summer into next Christmas. These chocolates from Katie have a two week shelf-life, so if you haven’t set every alarm in your house for 12th December to remind you to buy some for your most-loved person in your life, you’re a living Scrooge. Don’t waste money on flashy chocolate boxes. Buy real chocolate for real chocolate-lovers.