Saturday, June 15, 2013

Afternoon Tea at Charles Chocolates

Sun, friends and Afternoon Tea. What a great combination. J.K. and I caught up with our friend Robbie at Charles Chocolates last Monday. Afternoon Tea at Charles? But of course! Chuck Siegel was happy to chat with us about the inspiration behind his (daughter's) idea to offer a lovely Afternoon Tea service on Sundays and Mondays every week. We should all be grateful that his wife is British and his daughter is overseas at school and they both appreciate that America deserves all the opportunities it can get to relax and enjoy a cuppa with friends. Plus real, fresh, housemade clotted cream!

When we arrived at the patio, it was a bit windy. Chuck and co graciously moved our picnic table out into the sun and we perused the tea menu. The teas are provided by local gem Samovar, and they are delish. (No surprise there.) We got a variety and shared the pots. Your server is very good about bringing more water whenever you need a top off. Angela picked a lovely Organic Ryokucha Green Tea with Matcha powder that had everyone at the table daydreaming about summer picnics due to its fresh green flavor (and our picnic table furniture). J.K. branched out with Organic Blood Orange Pu-Erh Tea which has the fruity flavor she and Angela love combined with the earthiness of pu-erh. Robbie chose Organic Maiden's Ecstacy Pu-Erh Tea which featured the strongest tea flavor (besides PG Tips) that you can pick from the tea lineup. There is a wide variety on the short list of teas, so everyone should find something that speaks to what they're craving.

Ryokucha Green in the background and Blood Orange Pu-erh up front.

Beautiful Blood Orange in the cup.
Angela tried a bit of cream in her green tea, but everyone agreed these teas were better straight up.
Dark and delightful, it's the Maiden's Ecstasy in our pot.
Your afternoon tea is presented on a simple wood serving slab, from scones to desserts. Everything is sourced and made with care and attention. Chuck even partnered with Straus Creamery to come up with a recipe to make their own Clotted Cream! Lemon curd and Strawberry Jam round out your trio of scone condiments.

Afternoon tea all in a row, no tiered tray needed!
We started with Valrhona Chocolate Chunk Scones, a Red and Yellow Raspberry Ricotta Custard Cake Slice and Cheddar Sesame Shortbread (made with Cabot's Clothbound Cheddar). The menu suggests you pair the tartness of the lemon curd with the sweet of the cake, but as Afternoon Tea aficionadas we mixed and matched all three condiments with scone, cake and shortbread.

A chocolate chunk scone, Custard Cake slice, and Shortbread cookie with sides.
Right now they are serving three sandwiches as part of their afternoon tea menu. An Organic Egg Salad sammie with watercress as well as 4505 Meats Chicken Confit with hazelnut asparagus. The Gravlax Sandwich features healthy slices of salmon on Tartine dark rye with homemade creme fraiche. Tea Time has a hunch that the sandwiches will be seasonal, so fingers crossed that asparagus season stretches out a little bit longer.

L to R Egg Salad, Chicken Confit, Salmon sammies.
Of course the desserts and chocolates are made in the cafe and factory, right across from the patio. This "mini" macaron with its lovely dusting of cocoa powder has a filling of light mocha ganache. The tart (also available "to go" from the cafe) is made with Valrhona Chocolate and Fleur de Sel caramel. Supposedly this tart is also "mini," however Tea Time is suspicious that Chuck is using the word "mini" instead of the more bulky label of "serving one chocoholic". You also get 3 truffles from the Charles Chocolates family. At this visit they were all tea infused.

Dessert! including tea infused truffles. They used  Ryokucha, Jasmine and Pu-erh.
Tart! Lovely light crust with sun-warmed gooey middle.
Charles Chocolates is making lemons into everything but lemonade! All parts are used, from the zest (in chocolates) to the juice (in your lemon curd). Many business owners are inspired to be and use local in San Francisco, but Charles is taking it one step further by planning for the community too. Stay tuned for the patio to sport a small dog run and herb garden. Not only will you be able to gather with friends, family and neighbors at the chocolate factory, but Fido can come visit too. Chuck is excited about the future he has planned, and we are too!

If you're looking for a special father's day event, you can rush to see if there are reservations available for Charles Chocolates Father's Day Tea with its special menu featuring bourbon chocolates and every Dad's favorite meat–Bacon.