One of life’s simpler pleasures is sipping on an aromatic cup of coffee; and many people who enjoy this pastime often do with a sweet accompaniment, with chocolate coming in first on that list. It is universally agreed-upon that coffee and chocolate make for a great pairing, but have you ever wondered why?
Before diving into the flavor profiles of chocolate and coffee, remember that they share similar histories, origins, and processes: they’re both seeds of a tropical fruit that were considered critical commodities at the height of European colonialism before the 20th century, and they continue to remain a valuable product sought after all over the globe. Their scarcity during seasons of low harvest caused by climate change has the power to shake up entire stock markets in countries where they are a primary export.
Coffee and chocolate also share similar production processes: they both need to be fermented and dried at their origins, before being roasted for to fully bring out their flavor profiles to life. The complex cacophony of flavors, notes, and aromas that result from this process are then assessed in terms of acidity, flavor, body, and intensity.
When it comes to fragrance and aroma, the lexicon used to describe both chocolate and coffee are almost identical: depending on their respective production process, both can be described as fruity, vegetal, nutty, and more. Variations in chocolate and coffee combinations can enhance and bring out flavors that were previously more subdued; conversely, the sweetness of chocolate is usually toned down when accompanied by a full-bodied coffee.
When pairing coffee and chocolate, take into consideration these questions: how has the creaminess of the chocolate changed? How has the acidity of the coffee changed? What new notes are you picking that weren’t highlighted before? If you’re new to this particular pairing, start try pairing a light milk coffee with a floral chocolate; coffee with a hint of spiciness goes well with dark chocolates; and a classic espresso can never go wrong when paired with a bold, creamy chocolate.
So the next time you enjoy a little bit of chocolate with every sip of your coffee, take time out to remember their histories and remember why they make such a great pair.