Mmmmm, warm coffee in one hand and rich, dark chocolate in the other…There seems to be a natural draw attracting coffee and chocolate together making them a fabulous pair. Coffee enhances the flavors of chocolate. Both coffee and chocolate have a variety of unique flavors and independently complex, and when paired together can create delicious combinations.
Enjoy a few of these pairing selections yourself or have a few of your friends over for a pairing party! Here are some handy hints on how to perform your own coffee and chocolate tasting.
Let’s get started on how to do a tasting with a few recommended pairings, but first, let’s first begin by talking about the basic elements.
Quick Guide to Chocolate Alone
Before we pair up these two delights, let’s talk about chocolate alone done as a tasting to first lay the foundation for the pairing to come. Savor the process of setting up the tasting. Use your senses as both the chocolate and its packaging give certain impressions and expectations of the taste to come. This all contributes to your sensory enjoyment.
Smell- bring the chocolate up to your nose and inhale its aroma. Is there a distinct smell, subtle scents like vanilla, spices, or fruit flavors?
Appearance- chocolate should have a nice sheen to it. Depending on the type of chocolate and the percentage of cocoa in it, you’ll see the different shades of darkness.
Sound- Listen for a “snap” sound when you break off a piece. Quality chocolate breaks with ease and neatly. Dark chocolate has a clear, sharp snap, milk or white chocolate has a more gentle snap because of the milk content.
Touch- High-quality chocolate should melt with your body temperature. While holding a piece of chocolate between your thumb and finger, gently rub. When the chocolate begins to melt, feel the texture- it should be smooth. It should never be sandy or rough.
Taste- Now, try a small piece. Let the chocolate sit on your tongue and melt. Inhale through your mouth and out through the nose. This allows the flavors and aromas to fully activate your senses. Chew the piece 3-5 times and concentrate on the taste and texture. Is it spicy, sweet or salty? Fruity or nutty? Can you tell which fruits? Is it earthy? Use all the regions of your tongue and try to identify all the various flavors.
Basics of a Great Pairing
Something to keep in mind when putting together a pairing is flavor combination. Start with the basic flavors you might want to taste like sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Sometimes these flavors are straightforward while other times the flavor may be more subtle.
This is a big one…pay attention to the acidity in the coffee. Perceived acidity in coffee has a direct correlation with the growing conditions of the coffee as well as the altitude. Make sure you are using freshly roasted, quality coffee to ensure the best cup.
Some coffees will have deep layers of complexity, with strong flavors like dark chocolate or pepper. For example, high-quality coffee from Bolivia may display notes of chocolate and citrus and big acidity, versus Sumatran coffee with complex flavor profiles that are earthy and sweet. Bitterness can be balanced out by sweet or salty flavors while tart can balance spice and sweetness.
Here’s the thing…there are no rules about what chocolates go with certain coffees, so it’s just an experiment! Don’t worry about using a particular vocabulary to describe what you taste. It’s an individual event! All these pairings will give you different results, so the goal is to find what you think are the best combinations.
Coffee and Chocolate Pairing Ideas
Here are some examples to get you started on coffee and chocolate pairings that you might find taste great together.
Espresso and Dark Chocolates
Like a romantic experience, try a robust Espresso with a bold dark chocolate. This pairing is a date in heaven with the smooth, rich roast that dances well with chocolates with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg or caramel chocolates. The creamy chocolate notes in the espresso will mimic the chocolate itself.
Spicy Chocolates and Brazilian Roasts
This spicy love story starts with a Brazilian roast paired with a light or dark chocolate. Experiment trying either chocolate with almonds or cashews and expect then to dance nicely with the fruity notes in a sweet coffee.
Fruity Chocolates and Guatemalan Roasts
Try an exotic Guatemalan Reserve Roast. The hints of cherry, chocolate, and cocoa powder will balance well with dark chocolates, chocolate with spices, or chocolates with a hint of vanilla or orange.
- Exotics + Dark Chocolate
- Classic Roasts + Milk Chocolate
- Mellow + Milk Chocolate with Whole Almonds
- Espresso + 70% Dark Chocolate
- Espresso with milk + 70% Dark Chocolate
- Lush + Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt
- Bold + White Chocolate with Strawberries
- Dark Roast + Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts
How to do a Chocolate and Coffee Pairing
Before You Start:
- Chocolate should be unopened and at room temperature
- Coffee should be properly brewed and fresh
- Take notes about the flavor elements you experience
Open the packaging slowly, inhale and break off small pieces and put them in a ceramic or glass bowl. Placing your hands on the bottom of the bowl, bring your nose to the rim of the bowl and inhale deeply to experience the aroma. Write down your initial thoughts.
Using fresh-brewed French Press coffee, pour it into a clean ceramic or glass cup to cool. Bring your nose to the coffee rim and smell the aroma. Write down your thoughts.
As the coffee cools, begin by taking a square of chocolate and put it into your mouth resting on the tongue and let it slightly melt. Chew the chocolate and coat your tongue while feeling the texture. Think about the aroma, the texture, and the length of time it takes to melt. Think about the flavors you are experiencing and then take a sip of coffee. When you have finally swallowed the chocolate, consider the flavor and how long it lingers. Write down your thoughts or share them with your friends in the tasting. Savor all the aromas and flavors. Take your time and taste the combination again. Did anything change? Are there new flavors? Aftertastes? Write down your thoughts.
Immediately take another sip of coffee and note how the flavors combine with the chocolate you have just tasted. Do the flavors and aromas go well together or contradict each other? Maybe one is more detectable than the other? Write down your thoughts and share with the others.
Chocolate and Coffee Pairings
Try lots of combinations of different coffee and chocolate until you discover your favorite pairing. Have a tasting party to get creative. Explain to friends that there are no rules, only what they like and see who comes up with the most creative combination.
Coffee and Chocolate are like two peas in a pod. Literately! The reason cacao and coffee have such a kindred connection has to do with their production being so similar. Coffee and cacao come from a common latitude, both are seeds of a tropical fruit that are fermented and dried at their origin, and both are carefully roasted to bring out their flavor profiles.
Climates and growing conditions must be just right to grow the best beans in the world. Many generations, through trial and error have given coffee growers a good understanding of what a coffee bean needs to thrive, and taste incredible. Coffee needs warm weather year-round, generous rainfall, and abundant amounts of sunshine.
Where Is Coffee Grown?
The coffee tree is a tropical evergreen shrub and grows best in what’s known as the “Bean Belt” which is the ideal condition for coffee trees to thrive.
The region known as the Bean Belt extends to the north by the Tropic of Cancer and to the south by the Tropic of Capricorn, and from Hawaii to Indonesia, across the Americas, Africa, and Eurasia; or between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South
There are more than 75 coffee-producing countries, each with their own characteristics that give them unique identities. Things like soil, rainfall, and sunlight affect the characteristics of the coffee beans; however it’s altitude that can make a coffee truly unique. Coffee can grow at lower altitudes but it can over-ripen or receive too much moisture. The beans grown at higher elevations are the ones with just a bit more zing. For example, Arabica grows best at high altitudes in rich soil, while the heartier Robusta thrives at a higher temperature and can do well at lower altitudes.
Many of the top coffee-producing nations are well-known; however, some may come as a surprise. Around 70 countries produce coffee, with the overwhelming majority of the supply coming from developing countries like Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia and Ethiopia.
Top 5 Coffee Producers in the World
Introduced in the early 18th century by French settlers, it became quite popular among Europeans. Brazil quickly became the world’s largest producer in 1840 and continued since. In 2014, Brazil produced 2.7 million metric tons of coffee, which was 30% of the world’s production. Over 300,000 plantations extend over more than 10,000 square miles of the Brazilian countryside. Brazilian production continues to be the driving force for the country’s economy.
Second only to Brazil, being relatively new to the international coffee trade, Vietnam has quickly become one of the largest producers. In the 1980s, the Communist Party bet the future of the nation on coffee. Coffee production increased 20 to 30% each year in the 1990’s, totally transforming the nation’s economy. In 2014, Vietnam produced 1.65 million metric tons of coffee.
The National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia created the fictional coffee farmer named Juan Valdez to help brand Colombia as one of the most famous coffee-producing nations. Colombia is renowned for its quality coffee and produced 696,000 metric tons in 2014. However some think Colombian coffee production may have been negatively impacted by the fluctuations in climate. Temperatures and precipitation amounts have increased from 1980 to 2010. Yet, Colombia is still the highest-producing nation of arabica beans.
Not nearly as well-known, Indonesia’s perfect location and climate helped it become the second-largest exporter of robusta beans in the world. The Indonesian coffee industry is made up of 1.5 million independent small farms and only a few large-scale operations. It produced 411,000 metric tons of coffee in 2014.
Indonesia produces several types of highly sought-after specialty coffees. Kopi Luwak is harvested from the feces of Asian palm civets giving the beans a distinctive and unique flavor. This intensive process of collecting and harvesting the beans results in one of the most expensive coffee bean in the world.
According to legend, a goat herder took notice of the plant when he realized the energizing effect it had on his herd. And the rest was history as the very first arabica coffee plant was found there in the ninth century.
Coffee played an integral role in the development of the Ethiopian economy. Ethiopia’s 1.2 million smallholder farmers contribute over 90% of production, and an estimated 15 million Ethiopians depend on the industry for their living. As the largest coffee producer in Africa, it produced 390,000 metric tons of coffee in 2014.
It’s estimated that 3.5 billion cups of coffee are enjoyed worldwide every day. Many people, whose lives revolve around the love of this dark and delicious brew, probably have a favorite brand of bean, but chances are where their daily cup-o-joe comes from is a mystery. Today, we are diving into where the best coffee in the world comes from and what makes it so special. Here, you can learn more about your favorite regions and beans, and possibly discover new areas you might like to try.
Who Grows the Best?
TOP 15 COFFEE-GROWING COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD
So, which countries shell out the best beans? With the many variables, naming the best countries is not an easy task. Naturally a personal bias in taste, education, and life experience influence a person’s favorite.
Going around the world, here’s each of the regions and countries that produce the best beans in the world.
North America and the Caribbean
Different coffee varieties are grown all over the state; however it’s the coffee from the Kona region on the big island that’s the most famous. Grown on the slopes of the volcanoes in black volcanic soil, Hualalai and Mauna Loa, this extraordinary coffee is pricey and in-demand. Known for its buttery finish, medium body, and deep aromatics its grown in the perfect conditions of frequent showers and just enough cloud coverage from the intense tropical sun.
Over 100,000 smaller coffee farms contribute to the coffee production making it one of the largest coffee-producing countries concentrated in the southern regions, primarily Veracruz, Oaxaca, and Chiapas. With so many plantations and locations there’s a lot of variability in varieties; however they lean on the side of rich, nutty, chocolaty, and on the darker side.
Jamaica produces Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, one of the world’s most sought after specialty coffees. Exports are highly regulated and certified only through their Government which makes it hard to find in the U.S. This high altitude bean is known for its mild and sweet flavor from the cool air, bountiful rainfall, rich soil, and excellent drainage found at the top of one of the highest mountain ranges in the Caribbean. Other coffees found in Jamaica tend to be brilliantly acidic and nutty, with almost beefy-flavored notes.
Coffees from Costa Rica have a good reputation throughout the world from the enormous amount of effort put into the cultivation of their beans. Coffees are strictly wet-processed arabicas, which results in a perfectly balanced, medium bodied, and sharply acidic coffee. The flavors of these beans range from sweet with floral notes, to berry undertones to nutty and chocolaty.
Guatemalan rich volcanic soil plus its microclimates give the beans from this country depth and complexity, as well as a spicy and chocolaty taste, with a medium-to-full body. Grown at high altitudes of 4500 feet or higher is the Strictly Hard Bean, known as a dense and hard bean.
The many microclimates along with high altitude, rich volcanic soil, just enough moisture and sunshine make Panama’s countryside an ideal coffee producing environment. Producer of the “Holy Grail” of coffee- Panama Esmerelda and the most expensive coffee- Panama Geisha, this Central American country brings coffee lovers to its yearly Best of Panama coffee competition. Other coffees of renown from Panama include the sweet Honey Hartmann, as well as those produced by Elida Estate.
As the largest producer of the bean in the entire world, Brazil contributes about a third of all coffee. About 80% of the beans produced here are the arabica variety, with the rest being rubusta, and are cultivated using the wet, dry, and semi-washed methods of processing. Brazilian coffees are produced in many different regions but they are almost all quite mild, medium body, and low acidity with nice bittersweet chocolate tastes.
As the third highest producer and probably the best-known coffee producer, Colombia maintains a high standard when it comes to their beans. Coffee is grown on many small farms throughout the country, whose rugged landscape makes it a perfect environment for these world class beans, but complicated to transport. The coffees of Colombia tend to be mild, with a well-balanced acidity, with Colombia Supremo, a delicate and aromatic coffee, and Excelso Grade, a softer and more acidic coffee, being the two most sought after types.
Africa and Middle East
The mother land of the coffee plant. Coffee was first discovered in southern Ethiopia. The flavors differ according to how the bean is processed as it comes both natural and washed. Natural beans have the fruity and wine-like tastes while the washed tend to be floral and tea-like. Harrar and Yergahcheffe beans are the most famous beans found here, and a typical Ethiopian coffee is sweet, full-flavored, full-bodied, and bold.
Coffee from Kenya is grown on the foothills of Mount Kenya often by small farmers. The processing and drying procedures are strictly controlled and monitored. Processing and drying procedures are graded with their unique system such as Kenyan AA is the largest bean while AA+ means it was estate grown. The coffees produced in Kenya have a bright, wine-like taste, with fruity notes and acidity, and a full body and rich aroma.
Ninety percent of the coffee grown here comes from smallholder and the rest from plantations. Tanzania grows its coffee beans at the foot of mighty Mount Kilimanjaro, near Kenya. Coffees from this country tend to be medium-bodied, with a mild acidity, a rich and delicate taste, and wine notes. Home to the world-famous Peaberry coffee, these beans are not only unique in their taste, but are rare because they’re a whole-bean coffee cherry, rather than two half-beans like most coffee fruits bear.
Most coffee roots lead back to Yemeni coffee. Very distinct in flavor and home of the famous Mocha Java coffee, Yemini coffee boasts citrus and cocoa notes. Blending the Java beans from Indonesia with their own homegrown Mocha gives way to the well know mocha java. Yemeni is an arid country, which means that coffee beans are a bit smaller than normal, and must be dry processed after harvest, resulting in a distinctively deep and rich flavor.
Asia and Indonesia
The most notable of the coffee-producing islands of the Indonesian archipelago, Java is so adept at coffee production that one of the nicknames for the beverage comes from this country. Coffee was brought here by the Dutch in the 17th century, which was so successful the name has become synonymous. Java beans tend to have a heavy body and an overall sweetness to the taste, a long-lasting finish, and a slightly herbaceous after-taste.
The coffees from this large island in western Indonesian can be sweet and crisp, with complex flavors with some describing as maple syrup to chocolate to toasted almonds. The body is smooth and well-balanced due to the acidity, and contains notes of tobacco, cocoa, smoke, earth, and cedar wood. The most famous type of coffee from Sumatra comes from the northern part of the island, and is called Mandheling, named for the people who produce it.
The coffees of India are similar to those from Indonesia, and are grown mostly on terraced mountainsides. The best coffees from this country come from the regions of Kerala, Karnatka, and Tamilnadu, and are full-bodied and acidic. An unusual type of coffee that is unique to India is the monsoon coffee, in which the unripened beans are left out to be blown around by the heavy winds, which results in less acidity and more sweetness.
This short tour of coffee regions maybe introduced new regions and sparked an interest in trying new flavors. So take a tour around the world without leaving your sofa by ordering from the menu of the world’s best coffees.