A shot of espresso over a scoop of vanilla ice cream: This is the affogato, perhaps the world’s simplest dessert, and one of the best. It’s more elegant than it has any right to be, and there’s something about melty pools of cool, creamy dairy intermingling with a hot shot of bittersweet coffee that just works.
The affogato is so simple it almost defies innovation, but that’s exactly why I can’t leave it alone. And when you start thinking of it as a format rather than a recipe, your choices burst wide open. How about a pour of lemon-and-clove-spiked Scotch hot toddy? Or mulled cider over a scoop of butter pecan? Or, the most versatile and, to my mind, delicious—a pour of some tea.
The idea came to me on a Japanese airline during snack time, when the flight attendants brought out single-serving portions of Haagen-Dazs vanilla and the beverage service of hot coffee and green tea. 10 hours into a 13-hour flight, I wasn’t what you’d call in my best state of mind, and before I even knew what I was doing I was slurping some sencha over my ice cream like it was the most natural thing in the world. People who say you should never drink green tea with milk: Try it with ice cream and think about your choices again.
Tea’s certainly less potent than espresso, so a tea affogato is certainly more subtle. But what it lacks in punch it makes up in complexity. Grassy green tea turns mellow with an almost honey-like sweetness, especially with vanilla; malty black tea becomes rich and rounded (I like adding a little lemon zest for good measure). Or try a roasty oolong for a savory-sweet dessert that recalls chocolate and even whiskey. You could even use matcha—which one could call the espresso of the tea world—for a nice green color contrast.