There’s a little Italian place on Montana that has a multi-page menu of only authentic Italian hot chocolate and exotic teas! The owners are from Travisi, Italy, where the concept was conceived. He started my culinary journey by explaining the history of chocolate and teas.
He first gave me a quick history lesson about chocolate: Chocolate, the food of the gods, comes from the cocoa bean. From the time it existed, it has been consumed in particular as a drink, often enriched with spices, honey, hazelnuts, aromatic herbs and fruit. And its history goes back to ancient times. The cocoa plant was first cultivated in 1000 BC by the Mayans, followed by the Aztecs. The fruit of the cocoa plant was so valuable that it was used as money and was reserved for the noble elite.
Flash forward to 2017. I’m reviewing the menu, trying to figure out what to choose from the 19 hot chocolate drinks offered. Traditional dark chocolate and white chocolate are available, along with other engaging flavors – coconut, almond, almond and rum, coffee, strawberry, hazelnut, whiskey, banana and mint, macaroon, orange and cinnamon, and several others. I tried the traditional dark chocolate, the hazelnut and the strawberry.
All of them were incredible. They were so rich, almost like a creamy, decadent hot pudding. The traditional dark chocolate was my favorite, with the strawberry and the hazelnut a close second. What a perfect way to kick-start your day, or to savor after dinner instead of dessert.
Next were the teas, even more exotic than the chocolate drinks. I received a primer on the history of teas: throughout its 5,000 years of history, tea has been considered a ritual and a medicine. Tea was invented in 2737 BC by a Chinese emperor who was heating spring water over a fire. While the water was boiling, a few leaves fell into the pot from the Camelia Sinensis tree, transforming the water into a pleasurable drink. The Chinese have said that tea is the joy of devoting a moment to one’s self.
Back to 2016. On this menu entirely devoted to tea, there are 37 selections. In addition to the traditional selections, (Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Ceylon, Chamomile) some of the more interesting fruit-infused brews include blueberry, apple, cherry, orange, strawberry, raspberry, peach, mint, rose, and Echinacea.
Teas with special healing attributes are also offered, including one for energy, one for sleep, one for vitality, one for balance and harmony, one for purification, one to quell hunger, and several others. Organic healing teas are also available for energy, rest, relaxation, digestion, sedation, and one from Africa that contains vitamins and is great for overall well-being. I chose a raspberry fruit infused iced tea – refreshing, fruity and delicious. Teas and be served hot or cold.
Last but not least is the coffee menu, offering espresso, macchiato, cappuccino and latte, with options to add soy or almond milk and flavors such as caramel, chocolate or hazelnut. Cold coffee specialties include the Ghiacciolo (expresso, crushed ice, sugar and lemon peel) Amaretto (expresso, crushed ice, cold, creamy milk and amaretto syrup and the Pisla (Expresso, cold creamy milk and pistachio.)
I will also be coming on a regular basis – I have a lot of hot chocolate and tea-tasting ahead of me!
1511 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90403