Pairing coffee with chocolate is part art and part science. Both have incredibly complex flavors on their own, and when combined, one can bring out flavor notes in the other that you would never have noticed otherwise. Finding the perfect pairing takes trial and error and depends heavily on preference, which makes this an art, but there are plenty of foolproof ways to creating a winning combo once you know the science behind it.
Let’s begin first with the most obvious factor: flavor. There are many elements that go into creating what we consider the general flavor of something, the first being fragrance. Part of how we experience flavor is through our noses, which is why you might find your sense of taste is dulled when you have a cold. If you pay close attention to the fragrance of coffee and chocolate, you’ll find no two smell exactly alike. The first step of creating a great pairing is to find a type of coffee and chocolate that either have similar or complementary aromas.
Next, try identifying two major areas of flavor. Categorize the flavors of the coffee and chocolate through the traditional four flavor groups: sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. From there, rank each by their level of “complexity.” Consider things such as mouthfeel (smooth, creamy, dense, light, among others) and the number of flavors you can discern (for example, a cup of coffee might be earthy, sweet, and peppery all at once).
You might also take note of the acidity of coffee, which is the bite you might feel on the sides of your tongue. If a coffee is particularly acidic, you may perceive it as sour. In general, you’ll do best to pair highly acidic coffees with a chocolate that softens that acidity.
Aftertaste is also an important aspect; when following up each sip of coffee with a bite of chocolate, the flavors that remain on your tongue shouldn’t clash with one another.
Now that you know which qualities of chocolate and coffee to look for, you can start getting creative! Typically, you’ll want to elevate the flavor qualities you love in the coffee and the chocolate, while minimizing or completely negating the qualities you’re not so fond of. The sky’s the limit when it comes to how you make those decisions, though! You also have the freedom to decide how best to enjoy each pairing. Is it a bite followed by a sip or is dipping the chocolate in coffee a necessity? Experiment even more by choosing a single coffee and an array of complementary chocolates to see how each chocolate alters how you experience the coffee.
Ultimately, there are no wrong ways to go about discovering your ideal chocolate/coffee pairing. Once you learn what to look for and what your preferences are, you’re sure to find that decadent combination of your dreams!
Of course, we have some recommendations on where to start:
Espresso is often a bitter yet smooth drink and our creamy Nama Chocolate “Au Lait” is the perfect way to bring out espresso’s hidden brightness without adding sugar or cream to the espresso itself. An espresso variety that has fruity notes will pair especially well with this chocolate’s infusion of cherry and orange brandy.
A good cappuccino has several inches of lightweight milk foam over shots of espresso. A crunchy, chocolate-coated cookie like our Baton Cookies “Hazel Cacao” should perfectly go with a cup of cappuccino. Scoop up a little of the foam on your cookie and enjoy how the cappuccino really brings the hazelnut and chocolate flavors to life.
Whether it’s a vanilla latte, hazelnut coffee, or a pumpkin spice latte, it’s always best to go simple when pairing chocolates with flavored coffees. You don’t want to create a combination that’s overpoweringly sweet, but you also don’t want to make your chocolate of choice taste extremely bitter by comparison. Try our Pure Chocolate “Sweet & Milk” for a balanced middle-ground that can match the sweetness of flavored coffee beverages without either one overwhelming the other.
Try these combinations or dive headfirst into creating your own! Explore our luxury Japanese chocolate collections for the perfect chocolate you can indulge on in your next coffee break.
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