I closed my eyes and reveled in malty, citrusy notes, savoring creamy bites of Tea-rrific Ice Cream on yet another steamy day in CT. Mario Leite methodically pulled one pint at a time from his cooler bag. Slightly sweet, distinctively herbaceous, frozen ambrosia bathed my taste buds as I savored more nuanced subtleties of ginger and matcha green tea.
WHOA! I opened my eyes with a start, remembering that I was in a public place and maybe I was looking, ummmm, a bit too private.
Leite didn’t mind at all. I bet he has seen this response now that his line of tea based, locally made ice cream swept the CT. Specialty Food Awards in March. It’s no wonder that the judges tied Tea-rrific’s Chunky London Mist and Masala Chai for first place.
In a field crowded with specialty ice creams, Tea-rrific stands out for a couple of reasons. First and foremost are the unique and unexpected flavor pairings.
My favorite is Masala Chai, but I hesitate to state it since each time I tasted another flavor, my opinion switched. The Masala Chai is perhaps the boldest flavor, with black and rooibos tea asserting sweet and aromatic almost peppery spices. It was a lot like a frozen chai latte minus the weird chemical aftertaste you get at that overpriced coffee chain I love to hate.
The second reason Tea-rrific stands out is the purity of its ingredients. Starting with hormone-free dairy and eggs from New England farms, it is noteworthy that there are absolutely no additives in the form of stabilizers, gum, artificial color and flavor. Local honey is sourced from Red Bee Honey in Weston, CT. The teas are brewed in a CT commercial kitchen and the recipes are blended and packed in state, too.
We’re talking local local local, folks.
Leite (talk about beshert, or destiny! His name means MILK in Portuguese) guided me through my tasting the same way I’ve tasted wine and cheese. I noted color (very pleasing, buttery yellow chamomile), fragrance (floral and fruity notes in the mouth not the nose), texture (creamy, deluxe, smooth), and finally flavor.
And flavor packed it is.
London Mist, packed in a cerulean pint that does summon up fog rising over the Thames, has notes of Earl Grey tea, with a pleasing malty and citrusy finish.
Chunky London Mist is very grown up for a chunky flavor. The base is the same Earl Grey infused maltiness of London Mist with dry roasted pecans mixed with unevenly chopped chocolate balanced with a subtle hint of citrus.
Chamomile is oh- so subtle with notes of apple and honey and a gorgeous buttery hue resulting from Egyptian chamomile flowers. I imagine it with chocolate or nutty biscotti.
Ginger Matcha has a subtle pistachio hue, resulting from the green tea at its base. Fresh ginger juice is extracted to lace it with the slightest suggestion of heat at the back of the throat.
Masala Chai, my fave, is a wild ride of black and rooibos teas with sweet aromatic and peppery spices. Somehow I imagine it paired with grilled lemon pound cake or something with some coolness or citrus.
Mario Leite grew up in a Portuguese family of tea lovers. He drank a lot of lemon verbena tea, recognized for its healing properties. He was trained as a molecular biologist and worked as an investment banker before he got hooked on combining his love of tea with unique ice cream flavors. He worked on a single recipe for a full year, sourcing local CT and New England dairy and eggs along with chamomile, earl grey and other teas from local suppliers and specialty tea shops.
And I have the scoop directly from Mario Leite, that the next flavor on the horizon, and I mean THIS summer, is Lavender’s Blueberry!
Imagine Darjeeling Lavender tea blended with fresh blueberry puree from Maine’s abundant crop. Lemon juice and sea salt will balance the flavor. I can’t wait to see the blue hue of this creamy confection.
I was thrilled to learn that my fave supporter of local producers in CT, Lloyd Allen at Double LL Farm Stand in Westport, has recently loaded his freezer with this Tea-rrific local ice cream.
Use this handy locator map on Tea-rrific’s beautiful website to find where to buy or eat this frozen treat in CT, the lower Hudson and the metro NY area.
Tea-rrific Ice Cream : www.tearrificicecream.com
Thank you to Mario Leite for sharing these gorgeous photos with Kosher Like Me.
Photography – Paul Johnson Photography
Art Direction – Elements, LLC