With the arrival of the cold and the early dusk, even the most dedicated spend limited time outdoors, and there’s no denying how good it feels to arrive in a warm place and enjoy a cup of hot beverage on these days. Of course, if you’d rather grab a drink for the sake of the company or the atmosphere, we’ve got an idea for you as well. In the first episode of our series, we presented products that can brighten up your kitchen inside and out, and this time we’re showing you 5 drink specialties from Hungarian brands that make perfect Christmas gifts.
Fabric white hot chocolate
You may have already tasted Fabric chocolate, you just didn’t know about it, as the products of bean-to-bar chocolate maker Viktória Szeleczky-Takács are present in several Hungarian cafés. Viktória also creates a hot chocolate base for the cold days at her Budapest workshop, and in addition to the popular almond oil dark chocolate, a creamy but not too sweet Colombian white chocolate version is also available. The special thing about this is that it is not deodorized cocoa butter, so the flavor remains natural and surprisingly cocoa-like. The preparation is quite simple, just melt 35 grams in hot water, stir until lump-free, then pour over warm milk/plant milk. The packaging is also worth a look, as with all their products, the design is made by Viki, while each pack is assembled by hand.
Where to find it: Fabric
Zhao Zhou Bulangshan 2005 Sheng Pu’er Tea
Tea is not just a warming drink, but a culmination of centuries of history and energy. Gábor Tálos, the founder of Zhao Zhou, introduces us to the Far Eastern world of tea with profound expertise and dedication. It was he who recommended a novelty for our series, the Bulangshan 2005 Sheng pu’er tea. In the Bulang Mountains, near the Burmese border, tea has been made for thousands of years from the leaves of four to five-hundred-year-old trees.
The effect of this tea, or its chá qì 茶氣 as it is called in China, is incredibly powerful and can be experienced after only a few cups. It helps the circulation of the body’s energies and helps you to arrive at the present moment, which is also why Chinese medicine holds it in such high esteem. The so-called Sheng pu’er tea is fermented and left to mature pressed into a disc shape. Bulangshan 2005 is nearly 20 years old, with a mellow, smoky, sweetly herbaceous, dried-fruity flavor. Its effect is meditative, but not just in the ordinary sense—it can take you to hidden corners of the soul. The recommended preparation for 5-6 grams of tea is 150 ml of water at a maximum of 90°C with 10-12 infusions. If you don’t know exactly what that means, read our previous article here!
Where to find it: Zhao Zhou
Casino Mocca La Montañita Coffee
Casino Mocca coffee roasters are one of the most popular and dynamic brands in the country, with a range of exciting products offered in revamped, clean white packaging. Although they have yet to open their café, they are in partnership with several restaurants. They are committed to education, which is why they partner with places where baristas know and understand the coffee and can recommend the right coffee to suit their customers’ tastes.
Zërgë Coffeeshop was recommended to me by Viki Varjú (Viki – The café explorer), a coffee expert, who guaranteed that I would find there exciting and well-prepared coffees. It’s been many years since András Zatykó and his wife Rita Benedek-Zatykó opened a vibrant, cool place on Fő Street in Budapest, designing the place literally cup by cup, as Rita is the artist behind their ceramics. At the suggestion of András, we included La Montañita from El Salvador in this guide, the base of which is a real rarity, the so-called Pacamara variety. Pacamara has been around since 1958, as a result of a cross between Maragogipe and Pacas: the beans are bigger, but so are the leaves, and the flavor is incredibly lively, a little fruity, with notes of caramel, but not too acidic. It is a pulped natural/honey-processed coffee, Viki tells us that this means that the flesh is removed from the beans, but it is not washed, it is dried with them. You could certainly buy it for home, but it has to be made strictly as filter coffee!
Where to find it: Casino Mocca
Zuzmo Matcha Tea Water Kefir
While everyone was growing sourdough and stocking jars hissing with kimchi on their kitchen counters in the last three years, there was also a surge in Hungarian brands that make products related to fermentation. Various fermented drinks such as kombucha and kvass can be made at home, but as a first experience, it’s worth trying something that’s made the way it’s supposed to be made. Not only the taste will be authentic, but also its effect. Foods and drinks made with the so-called lactic fermentation process have probiotic, health-promoting properties. The Pécs-based Zuzmo’s natural, small-batch soft drinks may seem unusual at first, but it’s easy to fall in love with them sip by sip: they work with two cultures, kombucha, and water kefir, to create a slightly carbonated, all-natural drink. Think of it as a probiotic lemonade. The label, designed by graphic designer Dorka Jakócs, conceals a matcha tea version that will cheer anyone up in the winter doldrums.
Where to find it: Zuzmo
Mad Scientist Nasty Riff Beer
Allow me to conclude with a confession: I don’t know anything about beer. That being said, even I know that when looking for something special, one of the most trusted sources is Mad Scientist. Perfectly suited to the festive season, their new release is dubbed Nasty Riff, and it’s the result of a collaboration. They partnered with the American Adroit Theory Brewing Company, and created an imperial stout-based drink with a flavor reminiscent of a Mexican cake. Notes of chocolate, spices, cinnamon, a touch of citrus and chili, and an alcohol content of 14%. Sort of like when you run out of patience during the Christmas rush and splash some alcohol into your hot chocolate. Tasting and exploring the current line-up is easiest at the downtown Madhouse store, where you can also enjoy exciting beer-inspired dishes.
Where to find it: Mad Scientist
Photos: Dániel Gaál