Who doesn’t love the combination of coffee and chocolate? We grabbed our favourite bars of dark, milk and white chocolate, set up our full range of caps, and then got busy with our very own taste-test. But it didn’t turn out to be quite as easy as we thought!
As we said in our coffee-breakfast pairings post, the secret to exploring a world of taste is to focus on pleasure. So when you try any coffee-food combination, try putting into words what you are experiencing in your mouth. That way, you’ll start to understand your own preferences a little better. We started on the dark side.
Dark chocolate contains the highest proportion of cocoa of all chocolates and much less sugar than other chocolates. Which means it is intense and nicely bitter.
We chose Lindt Excellance ‘Dark Noir 70%’ – containing 70% cocoa. Lindt are thought of as one of the best mass-market chocolate makers around. But what did it taste like?
Breaking off a single chunk, we detected a clear and pleasant vanilla beans aroma. Placing it on our tongue, we tasted a slight bittersweet undertone, but nothing more complex. As the chocolate melted there was no grittiness or graininess. This means that the chocolate and sugar were perfectly blended.
As a powerful chocolate needs a powerful coffee, we chose Noir; the strongest of our ristrettos. Why? Ristrettos are the best match for a dark chocolate. And we thought that Noir might just cut through better than Enigma. So that’s what we tried.
Noir’s big, creamy, mouthfeel and tangy acidity melded wonderfully into the robust taste of the chocolate. But … and this was really nice! … we could clearly taste the hints of hazelnuts from Noir long after the chocolate’s vanilla notes faded. This is definitely one combination we will revisit.
Our take away is that it helps to look for a single, rich, powerful base note in your coffee that will cut all the way through a dark chocolate.
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Milk chocolate is sweeter than dark chocolate as it contains more sugar and often vanilla too.
We chose Tony’s Chocoloney milk chocolate. And it was, as you would expect, super-smooth and creamy. Fantastic, if that’s your thing. But we found it very difficult to detect any other aromas or tastes other than milk, cocoa and a hint of vanilla. Maybe we need some more training?
Typically, Lungos are a natural match with milk chocolate. So we chose Revive to match it up with.
We found that Tony’s Chocoloney opened up a good space for the underlying light citrus hint of Revive to balance out the flavours. And overall, the effect was lovely. A great, perky, refreshing combination!
We think the key here might be to look for a coffee that has very distinctive ‘high’ fruit notes that cuts through the creaminess of milk chocolate. And so, to our final taste-test.
Boy, this one was difficult! In a culinary sense, white chocolate isn’t actually chocolate at all. It doesn’t contain any cocoa solids. It’s basically just cocoa butter and sugar. Which means there is no bitterness at all. An admission: it appears we are not very sophisticated when it comes to white chocolate. Three of us chose very cheap and cheerful white chocolates.
‘Professionally’ speaking, Costa Rican and Yemeni coffees are said to work best with white chocolate. Bearing that in mind, we tried Gigolo from our own range.
We thoughts that the caramel we tasted in Gigolo complemented our white chocolates really well. It added a little body where there was not much in the chocolates. As a bright, juicy coffee, Envy held it’s own. And the natural orange acidity countered any ‘artificial’ sweetness in the chocolate, too.
To be honest, overall, we couldn’t all agree on a single coffee that worked for everyone. But we did agree that white chocolate is best left to what it is – a cheeky sugar-boost!
In researching this post, we learned a lot about our own tastes. We learned that most of us prefer dark chocolate over milk or white. We learned that some of us are ‘lungo’ people and others are ‘ristretto’ or ‘espresso’ people. And that when it comes down to matching matching coffee and chocolate, we’re all very different.
So, what do you think? Do you have personal coffee-chocolate combinations? There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ – the taste is all yours!
The Bean Team
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