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.

Chocolate Tasting

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

Flavor
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.
Acidity
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.
Complexity
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.

Ideas:
  • 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

Chocolate
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.

Coffee
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.

The Pairing
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.

Taste Again.
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.