Both chocolate and coffee provide us with their own unique and pleasurable taste experiences and it is no coincidence that both products are so popular, because they have a lot of common features.
Coffee and chocolate are often compared thanks to the overlap of their growing regions and the similarities in flavour notes. The main raw material for both chocolate and coffee grows in the tropics. Organic-rich soil, high rainfall, and mild temperatures are essential to their development. While coffee is grown predominantly in Central and South America, cocoa is cultivated on the African continent: Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Nigeria.
The flavours of both their seeds is characterized mainly by their bitterness. Both coffee and cacao share a huge flavor profile; over 600 aromatic compounds in cacao and more than 1000 in coffee!
Just as we distinguish the gentler Arabica coffee and the more bitter Robusta variety, we also find three different cocoa bean varieties, the fruity and tart Forastero, which provides 90% of cocoa production, the savory Criollo and the spicy and a little bit tart Trinitario.
After harvesting, the processing of both beans is long and very similar, and includes fermentation, drying and roasting of the beans. Both cocoa and coffee beans are roasted to draw out the unique flavors of the bean’s origin. This requires technique on the part of chocolate makers and coffee roasters.
The consumption of both coffee and chocolate have a stimulating effect on the human body, due to caffeine in the coffee, or the alkaloid theobromine in chocolate. Theobromine stimulates mildly and less effectively than caffeine, but is more prolonged.
Chocolate and coffee differ in their descriptive usage of “dark”. For chocolate, a “dark” chocolate is a reference to the ratio of cocoa solids to other ingredients. Thus the higher the concentration of cocoa solids and cocoa butter, the more “dark” it is. However, when talking about coffee, “dark” means the type of roast. A dark roast means the coffee was over-roasted to achieve a specific flavour profile, such as smokey, burnt or caramel notes. A light roast means that the coffee was a bit less roasted and preserves the flavours of the bean’s origin, such as the fruity and floral notes.
When we pair coffee and chocolate, it will be noted that either the coffee will enhance the flavors of chocolate, or vice versa, but pairing them together should really create delicious and unexpected combinations, and bring out their unique and natural flavours. Take a piece of chocolate, crunch it and let it melt on your tongue … then sip your coffee. At an ideal pairing and tasting, we should consume coffee in the form of espresso if choosing a 65-85 percent dark chocolate. This dark roast coffee and dark-roasted cacao will have slightly bitter and strong chocolaty flavors that will complement each other with some sweetness from the chocolate. Lighter/medium coffee roasts will maintain acidic and fruity notes and are a good match to milk chocolate. Then try contrasting bold, dark roast with white chocolate and strawberries. You will find the same logic in all of these – either there is a mirroring of the flavours of the chocolate or a contrasting of them.
Be encouraged to try a few combinations of different coffees and chocolate until you discover your favorite pairing.