Jesse Jacobs: Hi! I’m Jesse Jacobs, I’m here today at Samovar Tea Lounge with Chuck Siegle, founder of Charles Chocolates and an amazing group of tea and chocolate fanatics.
So, this is supposed to be fun and approachable and if anyone has questions, we can take questions as we go from the audience. You’ll be tasting as well with us; and as well if you Twitter your questions in to @samovarlife then we will be looking for questions as well that come in… so, make it open.
Chuck Siegel: All in an hour.
Jesse Jacobs: All in one hour. So, we got a lot to do… and starting off… tasting tea. I know that there are a lot of similarities with tasting chocolate. From the tea world, we want to look for aroma, taste, after taste, body. How does it work with chocolate? How does someone taste chocolate so we can do it right?
Chuck Siegel: Well, it’s remarkably similar because we’re dealing with things that come from nature, ultimately. So, a lot of the same language is used, whether it’s earthy, grassy, clean, all of the things that we think about when we taste chocolate work very well when we’re tasting tea as well. So what we’re looking for is flavor characteristics that make chocolate unique. And kind of the way we set it up is we’ve set it up where we’re doing just plain chocolate truffles using six different chocolates. Except for one of them which is a white chocolate – that we’ll talk about a little bit, all of them are very similar if we look at it on paper, the percentage of cacao and everything else. But just by virtue of geography and cocoa bean type produce remarkably different characteristics. And what we’ve done obviously is we tried to create pairings between the teas and the chocolates that are complementary; not necessarily the same, but it just really tastes great together.
Jesse Jacobs: Got it. So yeah, with tea and I guess with these chocolates, we’re starting lighter and working dark, and we’ve tested out some white teas actually but they did not hold up well… (some birds in here) and they were too delicate and subtle and I think we didn’t bring out the flavors of either one. And so we’re actually diving in for the first tea here with a breakfast blend and maybe what we can do… we’re brewing it in the back so we’re gonna bring that out to you guys as we go and the chocolates as well.
So, starting off with the first tea – we’re taking a breakfast blend and a breakfast blend is known as a traditional tea to capture the right flavor profiles of a…
Chuck Siegel: (Comfortably on the back)
Jesse Jacobs: I know… (we’re not eating any birds today) But basically it’s the signature flavor, it is where breakfast blend idea came from and artisan is unique in that we really… I have had trouble finding good Indian tea. There is a lot of tea out there but I haven’t really settled on a good Indian tea that’s small artisan family crafted, which I the caliber of teas I look for that speaks to the breakfast blend that we’re looking for. So this is actually from Yunnan province – it’s Chinese style tea and I like to brew it in a guywan because it’s a good way to both look at the leaves as well as control the infusion. Traditionally this is known as covered cup and people can drink out of it and use it as a teapot and teacup in one. And this is what everyone has. Okay, so maybe…
Chuck Siegel: Yes, it is a breakfast blend.
Jesse Jacobs: A breakfast blend.
Male Participant: From Yunnan.
Jesse Jacobs: Yes, Yunnani style breakfast blend, we call it Samovar breakfast blend and it is unique in that it’s Chinese breakfast blend.
Chuck Siegel: And then on the chocolate side, we’re pairing it with a ganache that is made from a chocolate actually that is local from the Guitar Chocolate company in Burlingame. So they are E-Guitar Chocolates and similar to the idea behind the breakfast blend which is kind of creating a really nice, very universal, very easy blend, this is a blended chocolate. So, it has cocoa beans from different parts of the world blended together to create a really nice, very smooth, very even flavor profile. And this is so you know as oppose to some of the chocolates we’ll be eating in a little bit that are made from cocoa beans that are from one particular region, sometimes even one particular farm which again brings out some really distinct characteristics of the chocolate. This is a blend that’s made to really… just be comfortable and harmonious and just eat very well.
Jesse Jacobs: So it is the opposite of a single state or single trunk…
Chuck Siegel: Exactly.
Jesse Jacobs: …style, chocolate or tea. All right…
Chuck Siegel: So for instance, this one right here.
Jesse Jacobs: Before everyone eats their whole piece, how do you taste chocolate?
Chuck Siegel: Oh great question.
Jesse Jacobs: It is very important.
Chuck Siegel: There is tasting chocolate and there is actually tasting confections. But we are eating our chocolate truffles today. So we’ve taken the chocolate, we just blended it basically or mix it with cream, making a very basic ganache. We are not adding anything else to it that could add an off flavor or complementary flavor just chocolate and cream and then coated in bitter-sweet chocolate. So the best way to eat a truffle is to get as much of the center of the ganache as possible in the bite and let that really rule the bite. You’ll notice that the shell – this is an example, the truffle is very thin, it’s really just a delivery vehicle for a soft filling. So, it’s not supposed to be the dominant flavor. The dominant flavor should be what you’re getting inside with the ganache.
I ate it quickly which you are not supposed to… the other thing that is important is let it sit in your mouth for a minute or two… not a minute but… long enough that you are really… kind of warming it up to your body temperature, letting all of the volatiles and the chocolate come out and all those flavor develop on your tongue.
Jesse Jacobs: You mentioned to me before that you actually do not want to even bite it, that you want to let it sit there and really melt and coat your entire mouth… to permeate all of your taste buds.
Chuck Siegel: Or if you have to chew it a little bit, just chew two or three times just to create more surface area and then let it melt on your tongue, if you are eating just like say a plain piece of chocolate.
Jesse Jacobs: So for tea, the polite thing to do and to make tea really permeate all your flavor taste buds as well – is to slurp it, aerate it, bubble it up and coat your whole mouth and you want to look for similar experience, what kind of body does it have? What kind of aroma does it have? Is there an after taste? What do you taste?
Female Participant: Earthy, intense.
Jesse Jacobs: Uh-hmm… and tasting tea, you want to brew it a little more, concentrated and more intense, you really understand what is the breadth this product has to offer. What I get from this one is kind of malty… A little bit earthy, like you mentioned. If people like milk and sugar this is the tea that we recommend they have because the body of it holds up well it has some astringency.
Any questions on the first one? Question in the back.
Male Participant: What would be the (inaudible) you get like the black and gold?
Jesse Jacobs: So this would be a blend from a couple of different farms and some of the other ones would be more single state. So, higher quality, higher caliber leaves, more particularly chosen, makes them more expensive tea. A little more of a refined taste, you would not want to add milk and sugar or soy milk for those other ones. And if you are really a connoisseur you want more of this… it is a different experience, this is a more approachable everyday, blendable tea… chocolate even. And then tea would be going more singular, particular. What is the nuance for hill has in Yunnan. And this one tea comes from this one hill and you can enjoy it for that unique flavor that differs from the hill next door. So that would be reason, yeah.
So how long have you been doing this?
Chuck Siegel: With a few years off working with some dotcoms for over 21 years.
Jesse Jacobs: Wow!
Chuck Siegel: Which I just started thinking about it the other day and I had trouble coming to grip with the fact that I have been playing with chocolate for that long but…
Jesse Jacobs: What brought you from technology?
(And actually we can bring out the next teas for the audience as we are going.)
What brought you from technology… to chocolate from technology?
Chuck Siegel: It was actually from chocolate to technology and back to chocolate. And what brought me back was – that as much as I loved what I was doing with some of the technology companies – what I really love doing is feeding people and making food. And for me, making food is making chocolate. And between my first and second chocolate companies there was really an amazing renaissance in small artisan chocolate making in America. And all of a sudden, with my first company, we basically educate everyone, I was very new in America. By the time I started Charles Chocolates people actually understood what we were doing. There was actually a lot of demand for really high quality confections. So, it was just a combination of good time to get back in to the business and a desire to just be making food again. Making candy…
Jesse Jacobs: So how does someone… so, on that note, when I go to the grocery store I see 50 different chocolates, and I would probably choose them via packaging, whatever looks sexy or artistic or rustic. How does someone know where to start? Like for a neophyte, I did not even know what a ganache was.
Chuck Siegel: Right, well…
Jesse Jacobs: Where do you start?
Chuck Siegel: It depends on where you shop actually…
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Chuck Siegel: Seriously… there is some absolutely amazing chocolates available at a lot of higher end grocery stores today. Using Whole Foods as an example, you look at the chocolate selections and there is maybe 20 different companies represented in just their chocolate bar area. Easily 10 to 15 are amongst some of the best chocolates being made today. Some of them are not so much, but compare that to 10 years ago when there was really 1 or 2 high-quality chocolate bars being made at all. It’s just fantastic. What you really need to do and as silly as this sounds – to find good chocolate is just eat a lot of it.
Okay, self serving, I know… but it is also… and using again tea as an analogy, it is subjective. We all like different things, in your case in chocolate is likely different than my taste. What you want to do is go with companies that you know are making high-quality chocolates. And once you got that, then it is really just all about trying a lot of different stuff and really zeroing in on what you enjoy. And making that what you eat.
Jesse Jacobs: So for me, I have to find quality in the teas that we source as consistency and freshness. So we are looking for consistency in size, shape and color. So this tea here should look like this tea which is very different than this one. And that takes more energy, more sensitivity, more artistic caliber. What is quality chocolate?
Chuck Siegel: It’s a great question because it’s a little bit different, we’re looking for companies that are sourcing really high-quality cocoa beans, coffee is the best analogy here, sourcing good beans, treating the beans well, with respect, I mean, making sure they’re fermented well – when you roast them or blend them if you are doing a blended chocolate, like the one we just ate. Making sure that you’re concentrating on roasting and blending to bring out the best characteristics of the chocolate as oppose to doing it for efficiency and large volume. And they’re not necessarily the same thing. Making sure that… again, consistency is key, making sure that you are buying from a company that’s got enough understanding with working with chocolate that year-in year-out they can keep bringing the best out of their beans. And that actually takes a lot of skill. We’re really lucky right now. I mean, besides the huge companies that make good chocolate like of Valrhona or a Lindt. There’s a lot of small companies making some really phenomenal chocolate in very small backyards today. I really think, we have Scharffen Berger to finish it out. Like bringing… have a sensitivity to the fact that you can make really great chocolates, not just you can make really great confections with everyone using the same title. So, what we are going to do is we keep going. The next chocolate is the only exception.
Jesse Jacobs: Are you drinking this one or are you done?
Chuck Siegel: Uh…
Jesse Jacobs: I can give you a rinse.
Chuck Siegel: Actually no…
Jesse Jacobs: So which one, actually are you guys drinking.
Female Participant: We don’t know.
Jesse Jacobs: Hojicha, okay. So after Hojicha we will do the…
Chuck Siegel: Do the matcha after that.
Jesse Jacobs: Actually we’re gonna do the matcha at the end…
Chuck Siegel: Oh okay.
Jesse Jacobs: …It’s going to… the cup is gonna get cold…
Chuck Siegel: You’re right.
Jesse Jacobs: So Hojicha.
Chuck Siegel: Okay.
Jesse Jacobs: Sorry, I’ll give you rinse here.
Chuck Siegel: Yeah, please.
So as I was saying. Starting with the Hojicha, the next 4 chocolates, all basically are the same except for where the beans came from and the company that made them. But they’re all 70% which means, as a percentage, 70% of what you’re eating came from a cocoa bean and the easiest way to look at that when you’re eating bitter-sweet chocolate – the dark chocolate is… whatever the percentage is – is either chocolate liquor or cocoa butter. The 2 components in a cocoa bean, not necessarily in equal proportion and the rest is sugar. So, the only thing that 70% is really good for is telling you how sweet it’s going to be, not how good it’s going to be or the quality of the chocolate, it’s really just an indication of percentage of mass.
Jesse Jacobs: Why do people think that’s… it’s a buzz word now, what percentage?
Chuck Siegel: It is a buzz word.
Jesse Jacobs: Why is that such a buzz word and why it is… does it really matter then?
Chuck Siegel: Well, it matters but it’s definitely not the most important thing and the reason it’s a buzz word is because our industry is made of one.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Chuck Siegel: In reality, it has less to do with the quality of what you’re going to eat than almost anything else having to do with the making of the chocolate. Again, it’s a measure… all things being equal of sweetness.
Jesse Jacobs: Hmm… okay.
Chuck Siegel: But all of the flavors, everything else are coming from all of the other steps, from the beans, the fermenting, the roasting, all the other stuff I was talking about before.
Jesse Jacobs: What is baking chocolate? What percent is that?
Chuck Siegel: Well baking chocolate is usually 100%
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Chuck Siegel: So when you think of baking chocolate, it is true there’s baking chocolate and there’s Baker’s chocolate – it’s actually a brand. But that’s usually saying unsweetend chocolate. Chocolate that you’re going to use in cooking where you’ll be adding sugar somewhere else in the recipe. Like for brownies or something like that. So what that means is that a hundred percent of the mass is from a cocoa bean, either the chocolate liquor or the cocoa butter.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Chuck Siegel: But again, absolutely positively and using kind of like grocery store baking chocolate as an example, not an indication of quality.
Jesse Jacobs: Right, got it.
So what do you taste with this tea? And chocolate? The nuances.
Female Participant: This matcha ganache that we’re tasting is so very silky…
Chuck Siegel: Wait, are you trying the matcha ganache right now?
Female Participant: Yes, that’s what we got.
Chuck Siegel: Oh, so we are out of order.
Female Participant: It was white in it.
Jesse Jacobs: Do we have extra.
Chuck Siegel: We do, I don’t know…
Jesse Jacobs: Hold that for one moment.
(Can you ask Alonso please to hand out the Houjicha chocolate.)
Chuck Siegel: Number 3.
Jesse Jacobs: Chocolate number 3 please.
That was a contrast.
Female Participant: This one kind of overpowered.
Chuck Siegel: Oh, it will absolutely overpower.
Jesse Jacobs: Yes, exactly.
So this is how you learn what doesn’t pair. And this is what we did for a while before.
Chuck Siegel: Jesse and I got to spend a few hours just sitting around eating chocolate and drinking tea, it was awful but it was actually… the goal was to find this flavor combinations… these combinations of tea and chocolate that were really complementary. So this isn’t.
Female Participant: How do you cleanse your palette in chocolate tasting?
Chuck Siegel: In chocolate tasting – the classic way is just a plain cracker. That’s the easiest way to cleanse your palette. Quite frankly I’ve never been kind of a huge believer in a lot of the pretension that goes along with tasting chocolate, I’ll have a sip of water and that’s usually about it.
Jesse Jacobs: For tea, I just take a sip of the tea I’m going to taste and then take another sip.
So that’s pre-cleanse.
So now you’ll see coming around it should be much different. So this is what it should be.
Chuck Siegel: This is the first of… and kind of what you’d call an origin or a localized chocolate, these are cocoa beans, they basically come from Venezuela. It’s from a company called Amano Chocolate, I mentioned a few minutes ago that there are a lot of small companies making really exceptional chocolate today. And we’re going to actually be eating some ganachees, some truffles that are made with some of these kind of new small craft made chocolate, this Amano was one of the first.
Male Participant: Very nice, subtle.
Jesse Jacobs: So what would you say is your specialty? You’re not growing the beans..?
Chuck Siegel: No, I’m basically a candy-maker. My job is to find really great ingredients, whether it’s the chocolate, the cream, the butter, herbs, nuts, fruits… and combine them in to really great confections. So, no different than the corner candy maker 50 years ago that came on every main street but with slightly different sensibilities that have more to do with where we live and the time we’re living in than anything else.
Jesse Jacobs: So you curate in a sense?
Chuck Siegel: Well we create. These are our recipe.
Jesse Jacobs: It’s your eye and your taste that pulls from all over the world in to these flavors.
Chuck Siegel: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s really… and the difference between what we do in any other artisan chocolatier is really, kind of my taste and sensibilities, and it’s kind of like chefs at a restaurant, you can have 4 amazing Italian restaurants they get all their ingredients from the same place, but each one is going to be different. So really, what we’re doing is we’re just finding the best ingredients, treating them with respect and making the best possible candies with them.
Jesse Jacobs: Nice, all right.
Chuck Siegel: And this is kind of how we have fun, none of these actually are part of our product line, this is something that was done specifically for this tasting.
Male Participant: Modern day Willy Walker if you will.
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, right, exactly.
Male Participant: It’s brilliant.
Chuck Siegel: Except they don’t make movies about me.
Jesse Jacobs: Hey you’re here, I’m here, we’re doing it, live. This is live by the way, live studio audience. Did you get a shot of the audience by any chance? You did, cool…
One of the things about this tea that makes this tea unique is that it’s fairly low in caffeine and it’s actually a green tea so it looks black if you saw the leaves, actually we’re going to pass this around, you can look and smell at these two, you get the first of everything.
It’s a roasted green tea from Japan and it’s called Hojicha, and it’s very soothing, clean, singular taste, a little bit malty, a little bit woodsy, and I like it actually before bed, it’s pretty low in caffeine. So, it’s just soothing.
Chuck Siegel: And the roasting, that’s one of the characteristics of this chocolate. When we are tasting the tea and the chocolate, it was kind of like the roasty notes in this chocolate was really kind of what brought these two together.
Jesse Jacobs: Uh-hmm, versus everything else.
Chuck Siegel: Exactly.
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, I agree.
Male Participant: That’s not the community kind right? What’s that barley?
Jesse Jacobs: No, there’s no barley in here. Barley is actually barley, roasted barley which is often Korean style tea. It’s not tea. So, that is a grain. So tea comes from Camellia sinensis plant.
Male Participant: This is Camellia sinensis.
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, actually… here, you can pass this one. This is roasted. This is a twig… twig and leaf. So, it’s actually… they don’t waste anything and they use the twigs and the leaves… later in the season when they’re a little more rugged and less sensitive. The opposite of a first flush. You don’t want to waste it so you might as well process it and therefore they roast it and bring out a different flavor. But it’s almost like a black tea within the green tea specimen – some black tea style profile. So, all right, that’s Hojicha. Let’s see here, so the next one down – the Royal Garland.
Chuck Siegel: Yeah.
Jesse Jacobs: All right. Royal Garland.
Chuck Siegel: And the chocolate that’s being passed out with the Royal Garland is actually the second chocolate being made by Amano. Amano is… again, a small craft made chocolate company they’re based in Utah – Orem, Utah. And exact same company, exact same processing style and method, exact same percentage of cacao, but you’ll notice the beans are of a different type and from a different place. They have really different flavor profiles and that’s really… when I talk about what’s important in chocolate, that’s what I’m trained, kind of make a point of – is that it’s really not that that it’s a 70% bitter-sweet, it’s where the beans come from, how they’re processed and you can get remarkably different flavors from chocolate just by virtue of that.
Male Participant: Is the word handcrafted and the word artisan in the chocolate world one and the same or not necessarily?
Chuck Siegel: Not necessarily but usually. And using my company as an example, we use artisan quite frankly because otherwise the marketing industry calls it super premium which has absolutely no meaning. And unfortunately it begs to be superseded by ultra premium in a year and superdooper premium in 3 years. So, artisan just happens to be more descriptive. And what we do is make very small batches, fresh every week of essentially handmade chocolates. So the term artisan really kind of fits what we do best. Now, in making chocolate it is actually a mechanized process, you don’t do it by hand, you use machinery, but there you’re really talking about the size of the batch, how it’s being made. It’s not… it’s a very small scale version of a very industrial process and it’s much more hands-on than if you look at like the companies making dimes for a chocolate. I mean, it’s a completely different way of making chocolate, completely different sensibility about the chocolate that they’re making.
Male Participant: Thank you.
Chuck Siegel: Sure.
Jesse Jacobs: Chocolate is almost like a medicine.
Chuck Siegel: It is. Well, these days it is.
Jesse Jacobs: These days it is…
Chuck Siegel: And actually, I mean, for ages we’ve always equated different teas with having different medicinal impact. Obviously, for most of chocolate’s history it’s been viewed as candy and bad for you. And just recently, (inaudible) has studied at UCSF Medical Center a few years ago about heart, health, and chocolate. We’re being told that there really are some really wonderful medicinal properties to chocolate. It’s kind of like the Woody Allen sleeper thing, I mean, you wake up and suddenly it’s good for you.
Jesse Jacobs: Right. That’s pretty amazing, yeah.
Male Participant: Is this an oolong tea?
Jesse Jacobs: So this 4th one here is called Royal Garland and that’s a good question, so this is an oolong tea, on oolong category. Why this is unique is because it’s actually from Fujin Province in China which is where white tea is produced and white tea is an unprocessed tea made from a downy white tea leaves – unopened buds. So, they’ve actually used white tea leaves and made it oolong tea product. Kind of a cutting edge, avante-garde, out there thing in the tea world and that it was a test batch. I’ve never seen it before, we bought all that was available. And I said I think that it’s so unique I would love to offer it.
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, I mean it’s really, go pass these leaves around as well, actually…
Male Participant: This one is very high end and fairly expensive?
Jesse Jacobs: Not at all.
Chuck Siegel: If you’re personally getting them or not necessarily?
Jesse Jacobs: No, not at all. I mean, you can get it from us – I don’t know where else you can get it. For what it’s got to offer, any people want to describe how they would taste this tea? What the aroma, the taste? Flavor profile? Any brave tasters?
Male Participant: It’s very complex.
Jesse Jacobs: Complex, yeah.
Female Participant: It’s like tangerine in those… somewhere.
Jesse Jacobs: A little citrusy, I would say definitely. There’s like a hay quality, a (inaudible) quality, it’s very creamy like warm milk.
Female Participant: But almost a little bit of smoke.
Jesse Jacobs: Uh-hmm. Not grassy.
Female Participant: No.
Jesse Jacobs: Like you might think of, even though it’s a light color and a white tea, not at all grassy.
Female Participant: I think, much blossom honey…
Jesse Jacobs: Oh wow! That’s a good point – blossom honey, yeah. Yeah, the citrusy piece does come out. In this tea you could brew 5 – 10 times. I mean, it’s amazing the leaves just keep opening up and get better and better.
Chuck Siegel: We begin behind that…
Jesse Jacobs: So, all right, so let’s taste this chocolate with this one. Did everyone get the chocolate with this one?
Female Participant: Uh-hmm.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay. It’s hard just to let it melt and not take a bite.
Chuck Siegel: Exactly.
Jesse Jacobs: That’s the hard part.
Chuck Siegel: With this chocolate I think what we’re looking at was almost the vegetal mix and…
Jesse Jacobs: I get the kick on this one… you feel the astringency the body that… nice… all right.
Next up. We can be brewing number 5 and also the Phoenix oolong. And make sure… I guess you can pass off the leaves at well.
So, looking at the leaves as part of the experience that you can smell and touch and it’s where you can really notice the consistency. It’s the tangible aspect that a good tea that… it should look the same throughout, you should also smell the same throughout.
So, the next one is the Phoenix. You want to talk about the next chocolate?
Chuck Siegel: So, the next chocolate is ganache made with a bean from Madagascar and it’s a chocolate company called Theo in Seattle. Theo is an all-organic, all-fair trade chocolate maker. Just really making some wonderful chocolate, probably the best organic chocolate. At least, and this is subjective, but in my opinion being made right now. And again, the characteristics of this chocolate and the ganache. There is kind of like a deeply, almost caramely flavor that with the Phoenix just pairs really well.
So, that’s the chocolate – it should have stripes embedded in the surface. Just trying to make sure we’re still on the right track.
Jesse Jacobs: So, Phoenix oolong. What is unique about this one here? So, the other name for this oolong is Honey Orchid and with these kinds of oolongs it’s nice to rinse them first to open up the leaves. They have so many infusions or what they call patience. Patience is the ability to re-steep, and re-steep and explore and enjoy the leaves that you started off best by rinsing them and opening the leaves a little bit to begin the journey.
Male Participant: Does that mean that you can get many cups out of that?
Jesse Jacobs: Many. So oolong and pu-erh are the classic teas that you would rinse first to open up. And other teas like the black tea, the white tea, the greens – a lot of the flavors in the first infusion. So, if you rinse them you’ll be getting rid of it. So, this one – the flavor only begins in the second, third, or fourth infusion. There is so much there. This tea is actually a 900-year-old style ancient tea. Not this one you’re drinking but the history of this. And it’s really the teas of the royalty, extreme decadence, back then when there were less cooking ingredients and things for full flavor – the processing of this tea created such a unique aroma and sweetness that it made it really a dessert and a phenomenal experience, really, that when you drink it and wash the leaves open up – it’s just decadence.
Some of the flavors that we used to describe this one are like caramelized stone fruits, burnt sugar, really like the sweet floral, tropical-intense aroma, the real thickness and humidity to it that come naturally from the tea. There’s no flavor added, there is no peach added to this.
Chuck Siegel: Oh, yeah, very rich.
Jesse Jacobs: Super rich, yeah.
Sort of a travesty, we’re only brewing it once, but I did a long infusion so…
So what are the challenges of being a business owner in San Francisco?
Chuck Siegel: We could probably talk for few hours about that.
Jesse Jacobs: How about the biggest challenges and the biggest rewards?
Chuck Siegel: Honestly, the biggest reward is… to me… what I focus on?
Jesse Jacobs: Uh-hmm.
Chuck Siegel: And it’s that we’re on one of the most wonderful food communities, where pretty much everyone understands what small food producers are trying to do. There’s a sensitivity to people who are trying to do something special, and trying to do something that will not only increase people’s enjoyment, but increase their understanding of the food that we eat. And I travel for business all over the country, all over the world, and quite frankly I have never found a (inaudible). And it just makes it so gratifying to be in business here – certainly in the food business.
The challenges that exist I think everywhere, besides the economy, I mean we’re in a big city… and it’s often times hard to run a business where you’re manufacturing something in a big city, that’s why people have been living. We’ve just come back and after 4-1/2 years in Emery though we just moved the business back to San Francisco which has been gratifying, rewarding, and terrifying all at the same time.
Jesse Jacobs: Do you have any tools on dealing with the unknown and the stresses of entrepreneurship?
Chuck Siegel: No.
Jesse Jacobs: No..?
Chuck Siegel: I wish I did… if you have any..?
Jesse Jacobs: Drink tea… That’s what I would say… You eat chocolate…
Chuck Siegel: Yeah, you see actually chocolates consider one of those calming things, but having said that, it does offer solace.
Jesse Jacobs: And (inaudible).
Chuck Siegel: Yeah, exactly.
By the way, this is the one that we’re eating right now… which is the Madagascar.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay, and why did we pick this one?
Chuck Siegel: We pick this because it had that kind of like… almost caramely, like again, deeply sweet flavor. But the sweetness not from sugar – from the beans themselves and from chocolate itself.
Female Participant: There’s some fruitiness… there’s a lot of fruit in that chocolate…
Chuck Siegel: That’s the characteristic of the Madagascar bean.
Jesse Jacobs: So, why is Madagascar such a good place for chocolate?
Chuck Siegel: Well, it’s not that Madagascar necessarily is… there’s a cocoa growing kind of region which is basically around the equator. So, if you spin the globe and everyone argues whether it’s 10 degrees plus or minus, or 15 degrees plus or minus, if there’s a land mass in that band, someone is growing cocoa or cacao it’s called on the tree. And it’s really because of the climate. So, in any of those regions, they can be growing some of the best beans on earth or some of the worst beans on earth. So, Madagascar in of itself isn’t an indication of quality, but it does have a certain flavor profile and the beans that are being grown there that are high-quality, and again are treated well after they’re harvested are producing really phenomenal chocolate. But the same can be said of Central America, Africa… again, wherever cocoa is being grown, it’s really an issue of how… what’s being grown and how well it’s being grown.
Some farms are for quality. Some are for quantity.
Jesse Jacobs: Right.
Chuck Siegel: Again, like anything that’s being grown and harvested – it can easily go both ways.
Jesse Jacobs: You talked before about the grand crew of chocolate… or equivalent of that… and that’s… supply and demand, it’s such a limited production.
Chuck Siegel: Exactly, and over the years, the best beans have been harvested out because growers were going for volume and they were trying to satisfy the mass market, because, again, that’s where they can consistently sell their beans at a predictable price. And it’s only in the last 15 odd years that this resurgence in… came the love of high-quality chocolate has produced scarcity because all of a sudden those really high quality beans are in incredibly high demand.
Jesse Jacobs: Right.
Chuck Siegel: And it’s quite frankly why you see chocolate bars that cost 7, 8, 9, 19 dollars a chocolate bar. It’s often being driven by the cost of the raw materials – the cocoa beans.
Jesse Jacobs: So, it’s probably like tea. It could be incredibly expensive and not very good, just because there’s not much of it.
Chuck Siegel: Exactly.
Jesse Jacobs: Or it could be great.
Chuck Siegel: Usually in our industry – the higher quality, higher cost bars are pretty consistently good.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Chuck Siegel: People are making really… well, not high-quality chocolate that cost a lot. They don’t usually last very long.
Jesse Jacobs: Okay.
Chuck Siegel: The market deals with a lot of that.
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, yeah, that’s interesting.
Male Participant: Quick question relative to like… in this part of the world, in San Francisco Bay Area, it seems to me like when you think about earth-friendly and fair trade coffee, fair trade this and organic, used those words to describe Theo which is what we’re tasting now. Talk a little bit about where that comes in to play in branding and what you’re doing with Charles Chocolates in San Francisco, in home court that is to an artisan handcraft chocolate making.
Chuck Siegel: Well, it really depends on the producer and quite frankly those things mean very little to me. For me it’s all about quality of product and where we can find… for example organic ingredients that are really superior we’ll use them. But if the superior product isn’t organic – we’ll use that. Now, in our industry it’s still all natural, I mean there’s a certified organic and there’s naturally produced products and often times they’re the same thing. But for me, my goal is to create the highest quality product, not create one that can carry a label everyday of the week. Now, we’re lucky being here I mean really if you look at the ingredients that I have available as a candy maker as a chocolatier, it’s an embarrassment of (inaudible). And because of the local sensibility they are usually… if again not organics, certainly all natural, pesticide free. So, it’s easy for me to do that and if were in Detroit, Michigan doing what I do it might be a little more difficult.
Male Participant: Thank you.
Jesse Jacobs: Pretty much the same for tea as well. It’s a great thing to treat farmers fairly and to farm organically and all that. But for us, it’s even greater to know that we’re supporting small family farmers and artisans who are doing the best they can, and that sometimes means not having the resources to get certified. Get approved, get licensed, and so it’s a good thing either way but for us – all things being equal, sure we would go with that organic fair trade, but it’s not about just putting a label on it or a sticker, which now a mainstream sustainability movements are more about, in my opinion. Is there really a story, is there really a person at the other end of the world that’s making something that’s creating a livelihood or not. And having a sticker doesn’t mean one or the other necessarily. And so it’s about quality. I mean, does it taste good, does it make you feel good, and is it good for the earth?
So the next one here number 5… right? Number 5 on the chocolate world.
Chuck Siegel: Well, actually we’re number 6.
Jesse Jacobs: Six… sorry, number 6.
We’re gonna do the green tea, one at the end of it. If we can cut them.
Chuck Siegel: (Owen, do you mind calling the kitchen and having them bring over the extra of the matcha since we’re now doing two rounds of the matcha chocolates?)
Owen: More matchas?
Chuck Siegel: Yeah, thank you.
Jesse Jacobs: Everyone looked out.
So this one is very different. This is actually a fermented tea which is like a… we call it pu-erh or another word for this bole and think of it as blue cheese of tea where really it’s fermented and aged over many years. Some of them… we had one from 1947 at one point. And it wasn’t necessarily really great but it was very expensive and very unique. This one is not that old – this is called Maiden’s Ecstasy and it’s known as a… it’s caliber of leaf… it’s a high grade leaf and it’s used as a wedding day gift actually. So this is from Yunnan province and high caliber leaf and used in family relations.
Male Participant: High caliber, what do you mean by that?
Jesse Jacobs: Leaf… so just the grade of the leaf is very consistent and very specific and particular. So, it’s more of a luxury item. Very affordable, you know, pot of tea or anything like that but as a cultural experience it’s a luxury item and given as a wedding dowry gift and so we named it… I don’t know remember what that Chinese name was but Maiden’s Ecstasy is our name. Just speech in a wedding day… part of it. So, very earthy, very good for many infusions, very alkaline – so it’s soothing for your stomach, fairly low in caffeine and are awesome alternative to coffee, people who try to get off of coffee – go for pu-erh because it’s earthy bitter-sweet, has a lot of those elements of espresso and dark heavily brewed coffee.
Female Participant: And they go for the color too.
Jesse Jacobs: And the color too… it’s basically black… and there are many varieties of it… recently right around the dotcom boom there was a pu-erh craze, sort of like, (inaudible) or dotcom mania… and the prices went through the roof in the world market, there was no decent pu-erh anywhere, it was all ridiculously overpriced and the bubble has recently burst and now there’s junk all over the place. And we’re lucky we have awesome relationships with the farmers that we get direct and nothing has changed, our price has fluctuated a little bit but it has been very consistent and yeah… so the chocolate.
Chuck Siegel: So, the chocolate… we actually went in a slightly different direction with this chocolate. This is from a company called Valrhona in France, considered one of the best makers of chocolate in the world and a substantial business, it’s a big company. You can actually buy Valrhona chocolate bars at Trader Joe’s at great price by the way. This is one of their blend, it’s called Manjari – it’s a remarkable chocolate but it wasn’t design to have a lot of the same characteristics as the pu-erh because quite frankly there isn’t a chocolate that I could identify that could pair that way. So, we went in a slightly different direction which is designing a chocolate that tasted really good with the strong… kind of fermented flavor of the pu-erh. So, again slightly different in terms of how we match and why we matched it. But still taste great together.
Jesse Jacobs: Any flavor, comments on this one? We passed the leaves around to you – you’ll see it. Kind of barnyardy maybe… forest floor perhaps… or something…
It can be more of an acquired taste. What you look for with this tea is definite earthiness but not dirtiness and the only way to know the difference is to taste dirty tea and then you really know. This may taste dirty, but it’s not. There is a flavor that used to describe bad pu-erh and it’s called horse sweat, and it’s like this kind of urea briny maybe oceanic not good dirty taste, and it’s from very low grade pu-erh. We had a lot of tea from China but for the Chinese teas a lot of them that we get are actually USDA certified because there’s so much going on there, you don’t really know. And that’s the one stamp that we can say, “okay, well, if there could be night shade, night soil facility, or nuclear factory, or a plastics facility right next to the tea farming, who’s watching it?” And so having USDA organics at least it’s been tested for pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, all the way back to the origin and there’s a LOT number. So when it is… USDA on there, it means there’s a number that you can associate and trace this product if ever there’s a problem all the way back. That’s what you’re paying with bucks for organics.
So this is certified organic and that’s important for me. Not knowing really, a lot of the unknowns that happen in China.
Chuck Siegel: Do you know a lot of the farmers in China, do you work with them to source the teas?
Jesse Jacobs: Yes totally. So, I have a few close relationships, friends and family all over Taiwan, Japan, China, Korea that are consistently sending me samples. And now customers and the word has gotten out in friends and family of customers and staff where every week we get boxes of samples in. And if people ask me, it’s funny, what teas do I drink… most of the tea I drink is really bad tea, because I just take home leftovers and just drink it at home. So, I have to come here to have good filtered water, good tea that has been selected, otherwise I’m drinking like ‘what is this, this tastes like metal, I don’t know, I shouldn’t be drinking this.’ So it’s pretty funny but it’s amazing, I mean, you see this obscure packages that show up from Katmandu and from South Africa and herbal packages from Ecuador. I mean, bizarre stuff from little family farms that… the word is out… and they send us these things and now we have a great venue for it. And honestly, I feel very fortunate… to be in San Francisco… same thing there, people here who cares. Sounds exciting.
Male Participant: Have you used stuff from Bologna by any chance?
Chuck Siegel: I have not used it… I tasted chocolates from Bologna…
Male Participant: Is there any good chocolate being made there?
Chuck Siegel: Well, they’re very well maybe… I’ve had 2 different chocolates made from Bolognese beans neither were particularly great. That’s not to say they don’t exist though. We get samples as well but when we get samples often times people know what I like… our industry is actually is quite small so the samples we’re getting are… people sending me stuff that they think I’ll enjoy so unfortunately I don’t get a lot of the really obscure stuff.
Jesse Jacobs: Here we go again. So, now we have the matcha shake. If you get chance, I’ll take a little up here too.
And I don’t think you ever had this one…
Chuck Siegel: I haven’t had it. But I know from Dina that it’s fantastic.
Jesse Jacobs: Exactly… This is the green tea equivalent in intensity of the pu-erh that we just had and because it can be overpowering for some people in its grassy experience – chlorophyl infused flavor, we actually make a shake out of it. To make it a little more approachable in entry level. (Yeah, sure, thank you… 2 for us)
So we blend it with soy mild and our coconut palm sweetener that we now have used throughout Samovar and it makes a little more approachable, if you love this and you like the grassiness then try a real matcha which is made with this. This is a whisk and a matcha bowl and we actually whisk it with a small scoop of matcha and you drink the whole thing, you’re eating the tea, that’s what makes matcha really different – you’re actually eating a new product like chocolate. All the other teas… you’re eating or drinking the infusion of it.
Chuck Siegel: This is the most unique of the ganachees that we’ve made as well. What we actually did is we took the matcha and combined it with the cream that we use to make with the ganache added it to a white chocolate. Now, this is again, kind of unique, most people when they think of white chocolate basically think of well… sugar. Because most white chocolate that you buy has very little flavor other than sugar and dairy. But a really good white chocolate made from cocoa butter that hasn’t been deodorized still has a really wonderful flavor, although mild… this is from again a small craft chocolate company called Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Missouri that’s making some really fantastic chocolate. We have a bonus truffle that we didn’t pair that we’ll hand out in the end with of this other chocolate that I just happen to love one of this bitter-sweet. Now, this is also very sweet because we’re using white chocolate. We want the grassiness that really matcha texture come through in the ganache. If we had used the darker chocolate, milk or bitter-sweet, it would have been completely lost. We did though put a very thin coating of bitter-sweet chocolate on top of the ganache before enrobing it in the white chocolate. So, this is the sweetest thing that we’ve made in a long time. But it’s all again designed to let the matcha come through. So, this is the only one of the truffles where we actually used the tea to make the chocolate and it’s because with the matcha it was the best way to kind of bring its character out.
Jesse Jacobs: Can you get a macro on that one? It looks really beautiful.
Male Participant: Are you telling us you don’t offer this currently, you made it only special for this tasting and you don’t offer it as part of your line right now?
Chuck Siegel: No, think of it as a tease.
Male Participant: Okay…
Jesse Jacobs: Are you offering any of these?
Chuck Siegel: No, none of these actually.
Jesse Jacobs: So, none of these are available…
Chuck Siegel: Well in fact we’ve been talking in the kitchen for the last couple of days about doing something with matcha, so this will show up in some guys in our product line, I don’t know when, I don’t know exactly what the finished one will look like. We’ve enjoyed all of these, but using the matcha in the ganache in the chocolate just been really a wonderful experience. We’ve been having fun with it.
Male Participant: Stay tuned…
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah.
It’s an awesome blend of the white chocolate.
Chuck Siegel: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Male Participant: I have a question about that… because matcha is very perishable… and after you bought it… so it’s not so great. You can keep it on the fridge for a couple of months… what would you do if you introduce chocolate to matcha and then it’s out in the world it’ll perish in 3 months..?
Chuck Siegel: It’s not. Our truffles are made with fresh premium butter and we don’t use preservatives. So, our shelf life is shorter than the teas.
Male Participant: Oh, they just came in on truffles…
Chuck Siegel: In truffles, yeah. Because that’s really… I mean, to use the matcha to say make a candy bar, quite frankly I don’t think it would work. Well, I don’t think the flavors would blend the way we want them to. By creating the ganache we really found a way to bring the flavor out and complement it with the right chocolate. But having said that and to answer your question directly. The truffle will go bad long before the matcha.
Jesse Jacobs: Matcha is a shade grown tea, so they actually cover it with shade to concentrate the chlorophyl and have the plants struggle to reach for the sun, so it’s a really rich vibrant chlorophyl infused drink and finely pulverized. So, we actually got a matcha milk to make fresh matcha at our other location and it’s 2 stone granite slab that you slowly turn and you put in something called tencha – which is unprocessed kind of loose green tea into the top and slowly grind it about 2 revolutions per second and matcha comes out the side. So, that’s… not the one we’re drinking here. That’s more just for fun. The one we have here is from Uji in Japan which is well known for matcha. Small family farm probably twice as big as this room. Very high grade, ceremonial grade, so generally you don’t want to blend this. You want to eat it, drink it straight and make it in a bowl and you get this intense caffeine kick and also what they call alpha state brain waves where you’re just relaxed and uplifted at the same time. No reason it’s good for meditating.
Male Participant: A few minutes ago, you described how this was made, could you repeat that one more time, about this particular matcha you have please…
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, so what you’re doing is eating… so matcha – you’re eating the tea. While the other teas you’re actually drinking the infusion from the leaves. So, in order to eat it – it’s got to immerse well in liquid. And what they do is they pulverize it or grind it, extremely fine, it’s almost like baby powder, the higher quality, the fresher it is and the finer it is. It’ll just color your fingers green you won’t even feel tea leaves. And the way they do that in the commercial approach – they have rooms as big as this room with huge wheels and we have a mini version… that are 2 huge granite wheels on top of each other, hooked up to a machine that are turning them. So the tea – raw tea comes in the top and it’s squeezed between the blades or the grooves in the wheels as they grind and the tea slowly leaks out the sides and they collect what leak out the sides. And that’s the matcha – that’s how it’s… and everyone in there has dust mask and everything because if you blow it in to the air it just sits there in the air. Really finely pulverized. And there are all different grades. (Oh yeah, please pass this around) Don’t sneeze.
Food grade which is often native China and actually turns out gray – can be colored, which are very low grade for mass production stuff. All the way up to ceremonial grade which is used in the Japanese tea ceremony. So, this is used in a way of bringing tea and Zen together something called chado or chanoyu. It can be up to 6-hour experience of making tea and sitting in Zen position and having a pre-described number of movements that you focus on, you make this tea. And this is the tea associated with that Zen tea ceremony. And then we do it here that way, whisked or more everyday style as a shake.
Male Participant: Didn’t you say you added something else to that though as a carrier?
Jesse Jacobs: This? Oh this one here… no… so what you’re drinking now is just soy milk and some sweetener.
Male Participant: Soy milk and a sweetener…
Jesse Jacobs: Plus matcha, just to make it a little guaranteed palatable.
Male Participant: Okay.
Jesse Jacobs: And it’s sweet to pair with the sweet chocolate. At home and here… what we do… just like this with hot water.
Male Participant: Without anything…
Jesse Jacobs: Nothing.
Male Participant: Okay.
Male Participant: How much of that [off-mike question]
Chuck Siegel: Which one? Well, actually both a lot.
Male Participant: Not the brand of drink…
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, a lot.
Male Participant: Really?
Male Participant: Yeah, we serve it with one bowl… you get one cup and it’s a very small scoop… it comes in I think 30-gram containers, vacuum sealed little sealed canisters that are kept in deep freeze in Japan until we order them and it’s probably about $70 per container and you probably have 30 or so little scoop’s worth. So, 30 bowls but it’s a mind expanding experience. And it’s a rich, creamy, brothy, caffeine infused grassy flavor.
Male Participant: It’s the highest caffeine from all of these?
Jesse Jacobs: You know, they all differ, but the fact that you’re eating it… if you were to eat these tea leaves you’ll have a kick in your caffeine intake.
So any other questions or anything?
Female Participant: Talk a little bit about the water temperature.
Jesse Jacobs: Sure… I guess the high level would be that… for me, I want tea to be approachable and that this kind of setup can often be intimidating with loose leaves and all this other stuff. So at the end of the day, it’s totally personal and I find that there are no rules on what it holds out. That’s it. More delicate tea, you want to have a lower water temperature. So white tea – green tea, not really the matcha but traditional Japanese senchas, Jasmin green tea from china – a little lower, so it won’t burn the tea. If you were to use hot water and brew it very quickly that’s fine too. But just to really control the leaves. I would say the biggest rule of thumb for brewing good tea for us that we use here is – fresh tea that’s consistent, obviously knowing where you get it. But then in brewing it, using more tea than you think is good. And doing multiple infusions and you’ll have a much better experience. The worst thing about teabags is that they trained us that you only use a miniscule amount of tea for a cup of water and we use for a fresher tea than what’s in teabags but also probably 5 or 6 times the quantity for the same volume. So, if you were to add one teabag to this, we would probably add about 5 teabags to it. Not teabags but the equivalent quantity. So really looking at adding. Rule of thumb is more tea – less time, more infusions. So you just re- steep the leaves and that creates a more pleasant experience. It’s really more full bodied that brings tea into the world of wine and that kind of connoisseurship.
Male Participant: You put tea on your chocolates, right? Or tea flavor… what do you do with the chocolates?
Chuck Siegel: When we use tea in chocolate – we actually make an infusion as well. The difference being we’re infusing into cream, rather than infusing into water. So, we have to be particularly aware of the qualities of tea when steeped for a very long time. We use also a lot of tea relative to say making a cup of tea because we’re steeping into something that has a high fat content. It doesn’t travel as easily between the leaves and the liquid, but we also have to steep it for a relatively long time for the same reason. For example, with the matcha… well the matcha is a little different because again, to Jesse’s point, the only one where you actually put the matcha in and we’re consuming, so we’re actually consuming the matcha in the ganache where traditionally what you’re doing is you’re flavoring cream and then using that flavored cream to make the truffle. So, completely different method of making the candy. But it’s very similar to what Jesse was saying where – use a lot more tea to get as full of flavor as possible, but again for us we have to steep it longer.
Jesse Jacobs: Any other questions? None… all right. So where can we find you and Charles Chocolates for those who don’t know.
Chuck Siegel: Well, here in San Francisco – our store is in the San Francisco Center, it’s on the 3rd floor under the dome, but probably the easiest way for anyone to find it is on our website charleschocolates.com and we ship all over the world.
Jesse Jacobs: Awesome.
Chuck Siegel: I’m assuming we’re being watched all over the world.
Jesse Jacobs: Awesome! All right, well thank you so much.
Chuck Siegel: Thank you Jesse, it was awesome, this is a lot of fun.
Jesse Jacobs: Yeah, thank you all for being here.
We’ll be doing more of these as time goes on… so definitely follow us at samovarlife on Twitter at Charles…
Chuck Siegel: charleschocolates.com… oh, actually on Twitter Charleschoco… we ran out of letters.
Jesse Jacobs: So, yeah, stay tuned and again thanks for being part of it.