What are two things that are crucial for the survival of the world?
No, I am not talking about H2O and oxygen, but something much more important: coffee and chocolate!
Okay, okay, I get it…… maybe not much more important, but to the millions of people across the globe who enjoy chocolate every day and the 2.5 billions cups of coffee consumed, by a lot of those same people, I have no doubt that they would agree that coffee and chocolate are critical in our everyday lives.
Coffee and chocolate are some of the most popular food & drink products in the world. There are thousands of ways for these two delicious ingredients to not only be consumed but utilised in different ways. These methods have been created, passed down from generations and refined from all around the world.
Just like cheese and wine or beer and pizza, coffee and chocolate make a fabulous pair. Coffee enhances the flavours of chocolate, which makes it a perfect addition to any dessert or cake where you want the chocolate taste to really shine through. Both coffee and chocolate have a variety of unique flavours, but when paired together they can create delicious, mouth watering combinations that is enough to make you melt. Here I take you on a scientific journey on flavour and tasting in both coffee and chocolate and advise on the points to look out for when pairing chocolates with our delicious coffees.
First, let’s talk about the basics of taste.
Elements of Flavour
Aroma is the power of fragrance and is linked to the elements of flavour beginning with the olfactory bulb at the back of your nasal passage. It is common to identify a smell like vanilla and taste vanilla during a tasting session. Fragrance and aroma are intrinsically linked.
There are many levels of flavour in a cup of coffee and you should try and focus on these below:
You can begin tasting by focusing on the four basic flavours of sweet, sour, salt and bitter. These four flavours may present themselves straight away, as you taste them, or they may appear in different combinations and at different times. Try to identify the taste you are perceiving and describe it as a positive or negative taste. For example, if you taste a grapefruit, grapefruits have a combination of sweet and sour as the base of the flavour, positive in the case of the ripe grapefruit, with sweetness being the dominant flavour – as opposed to a sour flavour, which will dominate in the case of the immature grapefruit, presenting a bitter and slightly sour flavour.
These flavours can be bold and, in many cases can be combined with sweet and sour being the most common.
In addition to these four basic flavours, evidence suggests that a fifth flavour called “Umami” should be added to this group. Umami is the savoury flavour you may taste, referred to as brothy, earthy and savoury.
Level of complexity can be considered as intensity, balance, and dimension in the cup.
Many coffees will be naturally well balanced, with the mouthfeel and acidity together in perfect harmony. Other coffees will have deep layers of complexity with robust flavours like pepper complimented by dark chocolate. High quality coffees can be surprisingly complex in flavour or plain and simple. Sumatran or Guatemalan coffees can be very complex with a flavour profile that is sweet, earthy, pungent and peppery- reminiscent of dried red fruits. However, a high-quality coffee from say Bolivia may present chocolate and citrus fruit flavours with wonderful acidity. Both are high quality coffees with different flavour profiles.
Mouthfeel is commonly referred to as “body” when discussing coffee and chocolate. The mouthfeel is measured by the weight and the different textures of the coffee. Swish the coffee around in your mouth to allow it to settle in the centre of your tongue, and then swish it to the sides and the back, only to bring it back to the centre. Ask yourself these questions: Is the texture glossy and smooth like fresh double cream? Is it heavy and dense like whole milk?
In the case of chocolate, feel free to chew on the chocolate to break it up or leave it on the centre of your tongue to melt slowly, so that you can feel the weight and texture. Is it dense and creamy or light and gritty?
The acidity is the bite, snap or sparkle found in a cup of coffee. Different acids will deliver different sensations on the edges of the tongue. We refer to “perceived acidity”, as opposed to the level of pH, which is approximately 5.7 (7.0 is neutral) in coffee. The perceived acidity in coffee is the result of the different coffee growing conditions and more specifically the altitude the coffee is grown at. However, the way that the coffee has been roasted may enhance or weaken this acidity.
When we refer to aftertaste, we mean the flavour that remains in your mouth after you have sipped your cup of coffee or tasted, that then may linger or fade away.
What kinds of flavours can you detect, after the coffee has lingered on your tongue? After you have swallowed the coffee? Whatever the flavour is, do not forget to ask: is it a positive or negative experience?
There are no set rules to follow when it comes to pairing great chocolate with great coffee, so it is completely up to you to experiment and find what works for you.
Bitterness can be balanced out very well by sweet or salty flavours, whilst tart or acidic flavours can balance spice and sweetness. All these pairings will give you different results, so the main goal is to try as much as you can and find what you think are the best combinations for you.
Coffee and Chocolate Paring Ideas
Here are a few coffee and chocolate pairing recommendations of mine that go really well together.
Espresso and Dark Chocolates
If you’re looking for a romantic, dreamy coffee and chocolate experience, try Redber’s Guatemala Antigua – Medium Dark Roast with a bold dark chocolate like our Whitakers Dark Chocolate Ginger Thins. This smooth, rich roast also works well with chocolates with spices like cinnamon, ginger, or caramel chocolates.
Like a couple in love, who have been together for many years, the creamy chocolate notes in this roast mimic the chocolate itself.
Nutty Chocolates and Brazilian Roasts
This sassy love story starts with a Brazilian roast like this Brazil Finca Cachoeria- Dark Roast from Redber paired with a light or dark chocolate such as our Elizabeth Shaws Strawberry Creams Experiment with chocolates that have strawberry or red fruit flavours to play nicely with the nutty & toffee tasting notes in this sweet coffee.
Fruity Chocolates and Colombian Roasts
Redber Coffee Roasteries’ best seller, the Colombian Excelso Huila- Dark Roast has hints of orange, chocolate, and cocoa powder that balance with dark chocolates or chocolate with spices, or chocolates with a hint of vanilla or orange like our Whitakers Milk Chocolate & Orange Spheres
Champagne Chocolates with Floral Costa Rican Coffees
Floral coffees like Redber’s Costa Rican Ampola Tarrazu , a vibrant and lively coffee with fragrant aroma of soft spices and nutty undertones that pairs well with sweeter chocolates like our Charbonnel Et Walker Pink Champagne Truffles or our Whitakers Gin & Tonic Truffle Selection