Coffee and chocolate have been pleasing the senses for centuries. Both are complex, with aromas and flavors that are meant to be savored and lingered over. For coffee and chocolate lovers, connoisseurs say a tasting party is the perfect way to indulge your senses and explore your passion for flavor.
Whether it’s a romantic tasting for two or a party with several friends, coffee and chocolate experts alike say tasting parties are the new trend in at-home entertaining. And expert tasters from Starbucks and Fran’s Chocolates say it’s easy to host your own party now that specialty coffee and chocolate are more accessible than ever.
Ann-Marie Kurtz, manager of global coffee and tea education for Starbucks, says to brew your coffee in a coffee press to get the most flavor from your coffee experience. “The press allows the coffee’s complex flavors to shine through.”
Fran Bigelow, chocolatier and owner of Fran’s Chocolates, says that coffee and chocolate is a natural match. “Chocolate is grown in many of the same geographic regions as coffee, and it picks up a lot of the same flavor profiles like floral or herbal notes.”
For the perfect at-home tasting party, Kurtz recommends brewing presses of coffee from various growing regions to pair with a selection of different chocolates.
Kurtz and Bigelow recommend these pairings of chocolates and
- Caffé Verona with pure milk chocolate. “The complementary flavors of the chocolate and coffee meld together perfectly,” says Kurtz. “The darker roast of the Verona holds up nicely to the creamy sweetness of the chocolate.”
- Guatemala Antigua with gray and smoked salted caramels. Bigelow says, “The acidity of this Latin American coffee pairs very well with the caramel.” Kurtz adds, “The salted caramels highlight the lemony characteristics of the Guatemala Antigua.”
- Caffé Verona and mint chocolates, such as Fran’s Semisweet Mint Thins. “The complexity and the roasty characteristics of Verona make it versatile for chocolates with distinctive flavors like mint,” says Kurtz. “The mint was highlighted at the end, and the semisweet chocolate matched very well.”
Kurtz and Bigelow have these tips to make your coffee and chocolate pairing experience richer:
- Select: Choose a coffee from three different growing regions — such as Latin America, Africa or Asia Pacific — and three to five chocolates with a range of cacao contents. Your Starbucks barista can help you pick the right coffees.
- Arrange: Set out the chocolate according to cacao percentages, from the highest to the lowest. Have your freshly brewed coffee in presses next to the chocolates with cups for your guests to sample.
- Hear: Break off a small piece of chocolate. Listen for a clean, sharp snap and observe the surface sheen.
- Smell: Breathe the aroma of your freshly brewed coffee. You may smell notes of nuts, herbs or citrus. Then break and smell the chocolate. The initial aroma should be of cocoa, followed by undertones of flowers, fruit or spice.
- Taste: Begin by tasting the chocolate with the highest cacao content. Let each piece of chocolate melt on your tongue and then slurp each coffee.
- Describe: Discuss flavors as you experience them. Think of adjectives that describe what you taste in your mouth like caramel, roasted nuts, or citrus. And remember, have fun discovering new flavors and your favorite coffee and chocolate pairings.
Once you and your guests have experimented with chocolate and coffee tastings, end the evening with your favorite blend and a rich, chocolaty dessert. This recipe comes from Fran Bigelow’s book, “Pure Chocolate” and will give your tasting party a satisfying finish.