Afternoon tea review: Cocomaya

Cocomaya fine chocolateLast weekend for my birthday, I embarked on an afternoon tea with my girl mates at Cocomaya which is an artisan bakery and chocolatier in central London. I had tried out the bakery a few months earlier with my French friend and enjoyed the flourless chocolate cake, sitting outside in the warm sunshine. The afternoon tea was set in the chocolate shop next door to the bakery and it was adorned with plates of beautiful homemade chocolates, brightly wrapped chocolate bars and a cabinet full of trinkets and vintage china. It is a girl’s dream!  The setting was perfect and we sat down to a variety of teas and coffees and water flavoured by blueberries, raspberries and flowers. My friends had rose tea, Darjeeling, good old breakfast tea and earl grey. I was brave enough to try tea for about the second time in my life and had assam chai tea which was bearable for the non-tea drinker!

Cocomaya triangular sandwiches with cream cheese, salmon, ham and cheeseFirst up was a selection of sandwiches with a difference – they used a dark ryebread which was very tasty although rather filling and heavy for an afternoon tea. The cream cheese and chilli, salmon and cucumber and ham and cheese sarnies were tasty. We didn’t eat too many though as we wanted to save ourselves for everything else to come. We also ate cheese rolls which were in Mary Berry’s words ‘scrummy’.  The next course included a selection of three types of scones – fruit scones, chocolate drop scones with cranberries and plain scones. They were accompanied by homemade jam which I guessed was something like blackberry and damson jam plus clotted cream.

Cocomaya lemon and poppy seed cakes, raspberry and choc cakesThen came a selection of about 10 mini cakes – some to half, some to have all to yourself. I couldn’t believe such a large selection of delights! Firm favourites included mini chocolate flourless cake, lemon and poppyseed mouthfuls, raspberry and creme patissiere cakes, fudge brownie and blackberry mini loaf. There were also mini banana loaf and mini marble cake slices. What a treat!

We were starting to fill up and had to go rather slowly. We opened pressies, took photos next to the chocolates and vintage china and smelt teas! It was lovely to take the afternoon at a really leisurely pace and savour every mouthful. Cocomaya let us take little boxes home of all the cakes we couldn’t eat at the time so the afternoon tea memories carried on into the weekend….

choc brownies by Cocomaya

For £25 per person I think this was one of the best afternoon teas I’ve had – the atmosphere was fabulous, the food generous and varied and the service patient and not intrusive. When I say patient – we asked if I could smell lots of different teas before I plumped for the assam chai and our waiter also took lots of piccies of us too! It can sometimes be hard to get through to them on the phone but I can only think they’re putting the finishing touches on their cakes. It’s well worth persevering and booking that afternoon tea of yours.

Special thanks go to my friend Hannah Carmichael for taking the amazing photos in this post. You can view more of her work at: http://picasaweb.google.com/hannie20

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Review: The Chocolate Festival 2010, London

This lunchtime, I was fortunate enough to be invited to a private event at the London Chocolate Festival by organiser Yael Rose. Greeted with prosecco, a select group of chocolate artisans, media and bloggers turned out to see the latest chocolate collections which will be the talk of the town in 2011. The festival has secured the top 10 chocolatiers in the country and this weekend they are gathered at the Southbank Centre to show off their chocolate delights. First up was Damian Allsop who is the first chocolatier to make a ‘water ganache’.

Pastry chef by trade, two years ago he realised that cream was changing the taste of chocolate so he set out to make the perfect water ganache instead. He uses natural spring water off the land where he’s producing the chocolates, rather than cream. This year he’s launched his Pure Collection which includes six water ganaches. The first chocolate we tasted was pure manjari (a 64% Madagascan dark chocolate) and Damian asked us to look out for its ‘red fruit notes’. We tasted two other chocolates of his which were delicious! One of them was an incredibly smooth Krug truffle which he has made exclusively for Fortnum and Mason. Next, Marc Demarquette took to the stage to reveal his ‘Nutkeeper’s Caramel’. He runs a small artisan chocolate business creating caramel hybrid pralines. He uses nuts and flavours such as pecan, maple and provençal almond. Next year he’ll be using macadamias from Australia. We were lucky enough to try his chocolate and pistachio caramel which was fragrant and a departure from other chocolates I had tasted before. Last but not least, Paul Wayne Gregory, (who has recently won four excellence awards for his chocolates), gave us his passionfruit bonbon. He said that his chocolates were different because of their simplicity, finish and quality of flavour.

This was the chocolate that had by taste buds talking. It was very crisp, and had just the right kick and balance between the passion fruit and dark chocolate. To find the perfect flavours, Paul explained that ‘you carry the perfect flavours inside you and you continue testing until you find those flavours’. The key to this beautiful chocolate? Room temperature, mould temperature and most importantly – the humidity of the room. The event was a great preview and teaser for what else is in store for the Chocolate Festival this weekend. I’m on my way back to the Southbank now to sample more chocolate and see what other sugary surprises are in store. Come on down!

Gareth James Chocolatier – chocolate review

Gareth James chocolatier Like the look of this box of chocs? You’ve come to the right place then. Whilst visiting Tynemouth near Newcastle over the summer, I popped in to Gareth James’ new chocolate shop (Facebook fanpage here). There isn’t a huge range at the moment, but after picking a handful of truffles and pralines and an intriguing tonka bean truffle, I was over the moon. What’s a tonka bean truffle taste like you ask? Smooth, a little marzipan, vanilla and cinammon like. Delicious. And what is a tonka bean? It’s a long and thin wrinkly bean native to South America. According to Wikipedia, they are banned in US food, but over in the UK we can go wild with ’em. If you happen to be up north, do make the diversion to this chocolatier shop!

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