The Best Way To Enjoy Coffee And Chocolate Together, According To An Expert

We're all familiar with food and wine pairings, or even the best bourbon and cheese pairings to bring out hidden flavors in brie, gouda, and camembert. But there's another dynamic duo involving zero alcohol but a lot of love. That would be two of the world's favorite consumable pleasures: coffee and chocolate. Both come from edible beans roasted and crushed to bring out inherent aromas and flavors, and both harbor energizing buzzy caffeine — but finding the perfect balance for enjoying them together can be tricky. That's why we're pleased to share some insights from an expert on the topic.

Nicole Patel, owner and chocolatier of Delysia Chocolatier in Austin, Texas, notes that enjoying coffee and chocolate together is incredibly easy due to the similarities between the beans. But pulling out the best features of each, and creating a delightful marriage of the two, takes a bit of care and understanding. That comes from two approaches: One focusing on practical tasting steps and the other exploring complementary yet complex flavor profiles. 

Here's a look at each component of chocolate and coffee pairing, guided by Patel's expertise as an international award-winning chocolatier specializing in handcrafted creations. Regardless of your preferred coffee brand, type of blend, or roasting method, there's a perfect chocolate companion to discover. It's super easy once you understand the basics. 

Practical approach to coffee and chocolate pairing

An initial foray into the marriage of coffee and chocolate can be as simple as brewing your favorite type of coffee, selecting a preferred flavor of chocolate, and then jumping right in. Here's where some practical tips from Patel come in handy, such as savoring each component individually before bringing them together. Discern the complexities and nuanced flavors of each by tasting the coffee first, then the chocolate. Then bring them together with a simultaneous bite of chocolate and a sip of coffee. She says, "This deliberate approach allows you to appreciate not only the distinct characteristics of each element but also the delightful transformation that occurs when they unite."

The next thing to remember is that both chocolate and coffee will better unveil their intricacies at room temperature. Bringing them to this optimal condition "allows your palate to discern the nuanced flavors in each, ensuring a truly refined tasting experience," explains Patel. Finally, forego the usual way of consuming chocolate, which is to chew it into soft and melty morsels of divine indulgence. Instead, practice a bit of patience by letting each bite rest on your tongue until it melts of its own accord. At this point, its unique flavors will unfold over your palate for ultimate taste exploration, especially when joined by rich, aromatic, brewed coffee or espresso.

Add complexity to the coffee and chocolate experience

Now comes the more nuanced approach to enjoying coffee and chocolate together. Instead of bringing go-to favorites of each to the table, start by choosing the coffee as a foundational part of the tasting experience. From there, you'll add layers of complexity by curating flavor profiles in the chocolate, ones that ultimately complement the coffee. They can come from fruits, spices, nuts, or similar components.  

Patel explains the effect when spicy chocolate ingredients pair with coffee, such as her dark chocolate truffles infused with cayenne, spicy jalapeños, and habanero peppers. While adding a kick to chocolate, the spices also heighten the perception of sweetness and other characteristics in the coffee. "This unique phenomenon arises as the heat sensation triggers the brain to intensify the interpretation of other flavors, particularly sweetness," she notes. "Consequently, the coffee is perceived as not only richer but also more indulgent."

It's not only spices that invoke this response. Like many artisan chocolate purveyors, Patel's curated collections play with tastes across the culinary spectrum. Her diverse History of Chocolate collection pulls depth and contrast from the likes of tart apples, honey almonds, white peaches, orange blossoms, chipotle, anise, smoked cacao, and Mexican mole. Exploring chocolate and coffee pairing takes on a whole new meaning after letting go of preconceived notions of what "goes together."