This was to be a double act with Jonathan Jones, the tea expert at Tregothnan and Marc Demarquette. Can that be right? Not the famed London artisan chocolatier in the depths of Cornwall? Yes indeed, it was National Chocolate Week and for once we were not going to be deprived of a top notch event.
But before I get carried away with chocolate and my new found enthusiasm for mixing the leaf and the bean, thanks to Matcha Chocolat, I'll just insert a short garden tour. Trelissick is on the opposite side of the river Fal to Tolverne and as we don't go down that way very often, we couldn't miss the opportunity to pay a visit to these beautiful gardens. I had imagined sitting in the autumn sunshine, warming my bones and banishing my cold whilst admiring the beautiful colours of the autumnal leaves. What we got was a gale force wind, no sunshine and a fast stomp around the garden, actually it was more of a shuffle in my case - teeth chattering all the while. We were more worried about avoiding falling branches from the trees than admiring their beauty.
To cross the river, we had to take the King Harry Ferry, which whilst rather romantic, had us reeling in shock after £7.50 was extracted from our reluctant hands for the privilege of the 5 minute crossing there and back.
The Tea House is currently a temporary structure and more like a tea tent; plans for a more permanent (and hopefully more aesthetic) one are in the pipeline. We sat huddled around the stage with thoughtfully-provided blankets draped around shoulders and laps. Trying to tune in above the flapping canvas and the roaring wind, we were reminded that we don't really have a climate in Cornwall, just weather - it could just as easily have been midsummer or midwinter.
Jonathan Jones kicked off proceedings by explaining about tea growing in general and tea as grown on the Tregothnan estate in particular. Plants were handed around to examine along with dry and used tea leaves. He is passionate about promoting high quality loose leaf tea in this country - quite right too. We had samplings of various brews to match the selected Demarquette chocolates. Marc explained how the chocolate flavours were more powerfully released from the warmth the tea left on the tongue. We started with Afternoon Tea and some dark chocolate from Brazil. He was right.
As I'm sure you are already aware, good quality chocolate contains cocoa butter, an ingredient much prized by the beauty industry which makes it a rather expensive commodity. The temptation for chocolate manufactures is to substitute this for vegetable oil and indeed this is what is used in most mass produced confectionery. Samples of both deodorised (as used for skin products) and pure cocoa butter (as should be used by chocolate makers) were passed around for us to touch and sniff - we could certainly smell the difference.
|2nd batch of cream added|
Ben Tre bars, both dark and milk. In addition to being ethically sourced, £1 from every bar bought is donated to Action Against Hunger. The 70% dark was robust whilst the 40% milk was creamy and tasted of honey and both have won awards. Among some of the teas we tried were the Breakfast Tea, which not being a black tea fan, was way too strong for me and manuka tea. This comes from the Leptospermum scoparium bush, also known as tea tree in New Zealand, where it seems to cover virtually every hillside. It has a delicious warm aromatic quality and grows extremely well in Cornwall.
website, so you can see what it looks like there.
Both Marc and Jonathan waxed lyrical about their chosen subjects and I just wished I'd come better prepared with pen and paper so I could record every nugget of information. It was a very friendly, relaxed and good humoured occasion with questions from the audience being answered throughout the session. Even CT, initially a reluctant participant, cheered up remarkably quickly when presented with tea and chocolate. Despite feeling under the weather this was a wonderful way to celebrate Chocolate Week, very different to what I did last year, but no less fun.