Tag Archives: coffee

Mast Brothers Stumptown Coffee bar

I’ve tasted chocolate that had distinct coffee notes, and I’ve also tasted coffee that tasted chocolatey. If you stop to think about it, that makes some sense. Chocolate and coffee are both tropical fruits that are fermented, dried and roasted. (Chocolate goes through a number of other steps beyond roasting, but I won’t go into those right now.)

The combination of coffee and chocolate is nothing new. Every time I’ve been in a certain coffee shop (you know, that coffee shop), I hear someone say Um, hi? Can I get a double-shot no-whip extra-hot double-pump cafe mocha?

Kidding aside, there are other examples of coffee-chocolate collaborations. After all, Soma Chocolate teamed up with 49th Parallel to create the Epic Espresso Bar. And I love the combination of sipping chocolate and rich espresso in the sinfully decadent bicerin. And, of course, there’s the pastry chef’s trick of adding a bit of coffee or espresso to chocolate recipes; a little bit brings out the base cocoa notes without actually tasting like coffee.

And then there’s the Mast Brothers Stumptown Coffee bar. This love child of Mast Brothers (the hipsters of the chocolate-making world) and Stumptown Coffee (Portland’s darlings of coffee) is wrapped up in beautiful steampunk-y printed paper, and the inside is just as lovely as the outside.

Other coffee-chocolate bars I’ve tried taste like a hybrid of the two: not quite chocolate and not quite coffee. This bar, on the other hand, tastes like two distinct flavours that enhance each other. The chocolate is deep, dark and spicy; there are definite nutty notes that are enhanced by the crushed coffee beans on top. And the coffee itself is delicate, never overpowering.

But at heart, I’m a texture girl. And let me tell you, the crunch of the coffee beans with the crisp snap of the chocolate is dangerously addictive. And for someone who is developing a disappointing sensitivity to caffeine (hello, insomnia!), let’s just say that this chocolate bar is best enjoyed in the morning.

Chocolate for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do.


Chocolate 201: Claudio Corallo recap

I waxed poetic about Claudio Corallo last week. I know you’re busy, being all run-around-y in the sun and all, but it’s worth reading. I promise.

I’ll wait.

*twiddling thumbs*



Chocolate 201 Claudio Corallo

L-R: Hodie Rondeau (Xoxolat), Marie-Francoise Barnhart (Claudio Corallo Chocolate) and, erm, me.

So now that you know who I’m talking about, I can talk about his chocolate and you’ll begin to understand how exceptional it is. We were fortunate enough to be joined by Marie-Francoise Barnhart, who visited us from Seattle with all kinds of goodies in her bag. Among them: a binder of pictures from Claudio’s plantation, with amazing photographs of each step of the chocolate-making process. It was a nice way to bookend the series, as I talked about all the steps in the first class—but the pictures really brought it to life.

Claudio Corallo “raw” cacao beans

As we talked about each step of the chocolate making process, we tried the accompanying product. This included Claudio’s “raw” cacao beans, which are fermented but not roasted. These are commonly referred to as “raw” beans, the “raw” part being a reference to the raw food diet that is so popular right now. (Don’t get me started on what I think about that. Ahem.) The central tenet of raw foodism is that nothing can be heated above 46 degrees Celsius (that’s 115 Farenheit for all y’all Americans). I’d argue that during fermentation, cacao gets much hotter than 46 degrees Celsius, thus negating any of the “raw” food properties that “raw” chocolate is said to embody. Aside from which, most of the “raw” chocolate I’ve tried tastes remarkably like a burnt car tire.

But back to the beans. Claudio’s “raw” cacao beans, all labelling semantics aside, don’t taste like burnt car tire. They taste like a delicately cured olive, with just a hint of tannic pucker and acidity. They don’t taste much like chocolate, aside from a faint nuttiness. They do not taste bad, and they certainly don’t taste bitter. Which is to say that the raw materials that Claudio is starting with are of the utmost quality, and only from top quality beans can you make top quality chocolate.

Claudio Corallo whole cacao beans and 100% bar

From there, we tried whole roasted cacao beans and their crushed variety, cocoa nibs. Most noticeable was the appearance: reddish-brown, and not nearly as dark as most cacao beans or nibs are. Also notable: the complete lack of bitterness. Instead, the cacao beans taste nutty, maybe a bit hoppy, and ever-so-slightly boozy. Claudio’s beans are roasted very lightly, to preserve the delicate flavours. From there, the beans are ground, tempered into thin slabs and hand-cut into bars. And that is the entirety of Claudio’s 100% bar. There’s no sugar added, no fussing around, no further manipulation. And the 100% chocolate? It tastes exactly like the whole roasted cacao beans, but in bar form.

99% of chocolate on the market is conched, which reduces particle size and provides the chocolatemaker a way to fine-tune the flavours. Claudio Corallo refuses to conch his chocolate, as that would drive off the delicate flavours he has worked so hard to retain. Though you’d expect the chocolate to be grainy, it isn’t. I can tell that it’s less refined than other bars, but it certainly isn’t chalky or grainy.

Claudio Corallo “sablé” 80%

“Sablé” means “sandy” en francais and that describes this bar quite well. I hinted in last week’s post that Claudio is a very particular man, and the fact that there are inclusions (that is, bars with stuff in them) is unusual. Where he’s chosen to include something in the bar, it’s been very deliberate and thoughtful.

In this case, he’s taken his 100% chocolate bar and added 20% brown, granular sugar to it. It’s a bit like turbinado sugar, but with finer granules. And on so many levels, it’s brilliant. Most chocolate makers take the ground chocolate bean and add fine granulated sugar to it, then process until the two are indistinguishable. In this case, Claudio has added sugar to his chocolate, but left it in its whole form.

What happens is this: you bite into the bar and taste the 100% chocolate first—nutty, savoury, pungent, wild. And at the split second that your brain starts to expect bitterness, the sugar hits your tongue and bathes it in sticky sweetness. And then your instincts kick in and you start to chew, the sugar crunches against your teeth while the chocolate melts, and then they mix together and it’s bliss.

Claudio Corallo 75%

From there, we tasted the 75% bar. This is 75% of the pure chocolate, with sugar mixed in the traditional way. The result is a bar that, while it contains more sugar than the 80% bar, actually tastes less sweet. The blended-in sugar amplifies certain flavours. This bar tastes distinctly wild. It makes me feel like I’m sitting cross-legged in a damp forest, eating the world’s best chocolate.

Claudio Corallo “soft” 73 1/2%

This one is a bit cheeky in its naming, as it’s a 70% chocolate bar (sugar blended in) with 3 1/2 % cacao nibs scattered on top. It’s called “soft” because the chocolate is softer than the nibs on top. Just as the sugar pulls out a wildness in the 75% bar, the nibs highlight the brightness and nuttiness of the chocolate in this bar. And, the chocolate tastes very sweet when pitted against the nibs, in direct contrast to the 80% bar where the chocolate tasted almost bitter against the grains of sugar. It’s details like that that make me really appreciate how deliberate all these bars are.

This bar is probably one of my favourites for nibbling, and there were definitely a few pairs of eyes rolling backwards into heads when we tasted this.

Claudio Corallo “laranja” (orange)

“Laranja” means orange in Portuguese, and this bar has candied orange peel in it. I’m not usually a fan of candied orange peel: it’s either too sickly sweet or too bitter. In this case, it strikes a nice balance of sweetness without any bitterness, and the chocolate lends itself so well to this elegant flavour combination.

Claudio Corallo “gengibre” (ginger)

This is one of two products in the line that include candied ginger. The ginger is from Thailand, and Claudio candies it himself. Just as with the orange peel, candied ginger is a tricky thing. It needs to strike a balance between candied moistness without being wet, and the ginger must be young and not woody. The addition of candied ginger to Claudio’s chocolate brings out the dark earthiness of the chocolate. The ginger provides a hot, slow burn tempered with sweetness. It’s all very refined; it makes me want to sit up straighter and drink a cup of tea with my pinky sticking out.

Claudio Corallo “ubric” (number 6)

We were so fortunate that Marie-Francoise brought us a sample of this. “Ubric” is a combination of “uva” (raisin) and “briaco” (drunk). Drunken raisins. That’s exactly what’s in this chocolate bar: raisins that have been macerated in pure liquor for who knows how long. The result is that the chocolate melts in your mouth at the precise moment that you register the heat of 100-proof liquor and raisins that, if they were people, would be dancing on tables wearing lampshades. Oh, to be a drunken raisin. Each batch of ubric is slightly different, and number 6 featured a pear liqueur.

Claudio used to make his ubric from the liquor that results from cacao bean fermentation, but the liquor needs to be distilled seven times. Needless to say, it’s very labour-intensive…and I suspect that the spoils of that project are for Claudio’s enjoyment.

Claudio Corallo ginger spheres

I have always called these ginger balls, and of course that makes me giggle. I’m giggling right now, and I suspect that you are too.

Ginger balls. Ginger balls! Ginger balls.

Anyway. I have always called these ginger balls, because that’s how they were introduced to me, but Marie-Francoise is proper and French and she calls them ginger spheres. Ginger spheres are chunks of the aformentioned Thai ginger, candied, and covered in 100% chocolate. The thing is that you have to warm the, erm, spheres up in your hand before eating them, and then you need to chew. Chew furiously and enjoy the moist and meaty chunk of ginger as it melds with 100% chocolate. Though it’s the same ingredients as in the “gengibre” bar, it’s brash and almost obnoxious. Claudio likes to bookend the experience with a small piece of 100% chocolate.

Claudio Corallo coffee beans

Before growing cacao on Sao Tome and Principe, Claudio was a coffee grower in the Congo (then Zaire). He’s taken to growing small crops of arabica on Sao Tome, and he took three batches of coffee beans and covered them in 60% chocolate. They’re all the same strain of coffee, but grown in different places on the island. And each of them tastes astonishingly different. #1, as it is cleverly called, is espresso-like. It’s robust and brash and overpowers the chocolate. #2 is more subtle. The coffee is mellow and builds gradually in strength, then has a long finish that lingers in your mouth for several minutes. Finally, #3 has a nice balance of coffee and chocolate, highlighting both equally.

Use your nose

I’m the first to admit that Claudio’s packaging is intimidating. It’s all space-age looking and you have no idea what you’re getting inside. However, the benefit of the spacey packaging is that the chocolate is completely sealed from the outside. This means that when you open it, you’re in for a completely singular experience. Find a quiet place. Get the package and a pair of sharp scissors. Make a clean cut at the top of the bag, and stick your nose in it. Breathe deeply. I can only tell you how divine it smells, like the chocolate is excited to meet you and can’t wait for you to taste it.

This is an experience that can and should be shared, but it does require a quiet moment, a bit of reverence, and someone who will appreciate food that makes you make faces that are usually made in the privacy of one’s bedroom.

Women and chocolate

On a slow news day, you’ll probably find some variation on the statistic that anywhere from 50-70% of women prefer chocolate to sex. Well, in an informal study yesterday afternoon, I asked four women which they’d prefer. Three of the four chose chocolate. The fourth chose both.

This post is about women who make great chocolate, right here in Vancouver. And, as a nice supplement to last week’s post, you might be surprised where chocolate lurks.

Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France

chocolaterie_logoThis shop opened up on a sleepy side street just off Main Street in what used to be a chic, but overpriced, clothing boutique. The shop is decorated simply but is oh-so-cute, with a chalkboard listing the daily offerings.

Truffles are sold by weight, and include tasty delights like orange blossom (delicate, floral and fragrant), Earl Grey tea (aromatic, elegant, and positively bursting with bergamot) and coffee (deep, dark and earthy). There are also truffles made with single-origin chocolates from Venezuela and Madagascar.

These are serious truffles that don’t skimp on the chocolate. They’re dense, rich and almost impossibly smooth. Finished with a light dusting of Valrhona cocoa powder, they’re shockingly good. Though they’re all delicious, the Earl Grey truffle is the best of the bunch.

You can also get small chocolate squares adorned with aromatic additions like lavender and chile flakes. The chocolatière, Anne-Geneviève Poitras, has taken care to match each chocolate with an appropriate flavour, pairing the higher percentage chocolate with robust flavours and the lower percentage chocolate with more delicate flavours.

I love it when people pay attention to detail.

Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France
198 East 21st Avenue
Vancouver, BC

Bad Girl Chocolates

bad_girl_logo[Disclaimer! Disclosure! Kelly Boyd, the woman behind Bad Girl Chocolates, is a friend of mine. She also makes kick-ass chocolates, and I wouldn’t be talking about her stuff if it weren’t good. So there.]

Bad Girl Chocolates has been a staple of the Vancouver Farmers Markets for a few years now, and I always look forward to this booth. Is it the cheeky, ‘40s-style pin-up girls that adorn the packages? Is it that the traditional flavours (caramel, nuts) sidle up next to the wacky ones (pomegranate, balsamic vinegar)? Is it the use of local ingredients wherever possible?

I guess it’s a bit of everything. Plus, I can have a chocolate while I fondle the produce at the other booths. (I mean, really. Did you see the peaches this year, all fuzzy and blushing pink? I dare you not to fondle a fresh peach or stick your nose into an ear of fresh picked corn. Seriously.)

Even better, a lot Kelly’s products are vegan. The ganache for Bad Girl Chocolates are made with —gasp! —water, rather than cream. At first, I was a huge skeptic, but now I’m a convert. The flavours are crisp and clean, and the chocolates taste just as rich as one made with a cream-based ganache. I won’t be making water ganaches myself, but I’m happy to eat them.

Don’t miss the fun, seasonal products. Not only are they limited edition chocolates, but they’re also the season’s bounty at its peak. I spied pears at the fruit stand last week, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for Kelly’s pear truffle: pear ganache with pear caramel. The mere thought of it makes my knees weak.

Bad Girl Chocolates doesn’t have a storefront, but you can order online here. They’re also available at most of the Winter Farmers Markets, though the final schedule still has to be posted. You can also check out Bad Girl Chocolates’ debut at this year’s Circle Craft Fair, November 11-15 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

49th Parallel: where coffee meets chocolate

A while back, I wrote about Soma Chocolatemaker‘s microbatch bars. A few Vancouver readers mentioned that they would love to try the Dark Science Papua New Guinea bar (tastes like toast!) or the Green Tangerine bar (tastes like, erm, green tangerine).

Well, huzzah! You can get select Soma bars at 49th Parallel in Vancouver. They even had some microbatch bars that I didn’t see in Toronto. They also have a nice selection of Askinosie chocolate bars, which I tasted last month and have been meaning to review. I better get on that, eh?

(They also happen to have some lovely coffee, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

49th Parallel Coffee Roasters
2152 4th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC

Chocolate and coffee

It’s a pastry chef’s secret that if you’re making something chocolate-flavoured, a little bit of coffee acts like an invisible flavour enhancer. This is true for chocolate cake, chocolate icing, chocolate pudding, chocolate pastry, chocolate pudding pie, chocolate souffle…wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, right. Chocolate and coffee.

When used properly in chocolate recipes, you don’t even taste the addition of coffee. But there’s something about it that makes the chocolate taste more robust, more chocolatey, more kick-ass. As if it needed any help.

This is one of the few cases when I’ll actually advocate the use of freeze-dried coffee. No longer the stuff of camping trips, a teaspoon or two can make a surprising difference.

When I have the time and inclination, I’ll make a batch of espresso and then boil it down until it’s a thick syrup. I keep it in the fridge and add it to recipes that can accommodate the extra liquid.

So there you go. The cat’s out of the bag.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier coffee truffles


Photo credit: Rick Levine

I’m a sucker for coffee-flavoured anything. And coffee and chocolate is one of my favourites. The flavours go so nicely together, with the coffee enhancing the chocolate-ness of chocolate. And, let’s face it, if I can get a kick of caffeine while eating chocolate – or at least, the perception that I’m getting a kick of caffeine – that’s a great thing.

Seth Ellis Chocolatier’s coffee truffle doesn’t disappoint. In a nod to yesterday’s post about molded chocolate shells, the shell on this truffle is lovely. It’s perfectly uniform, and just thick enough to hug all the coffee ganache that’s waiting inside.

And oh, what a coffee ganache. It’s like staring into a cup of freshly brewed dark roast coffee, taking a deep breath, and feeling like you’re falling into a pool of deep, dark, slightly bitter deliciousness. The coffee and chocolate compliment each other perfectly, bringing out the fullness of both flavours. It’s divine.

Seth Ellis chocolates are available at select locations in the Denver/Boulder area, and that page will soon be updated to reflect the five NYC Whole Foods that now carries them. You can also buy them online through It’s Only Natural Gifts or through Foodzie.

ChocoLove organic 73% dark chocolate bar

Ah, organic. It’s such an over-used word, showing up on labels everywhere. People try to buy it because they understand it to be better (whatever “better” means) but there’s a lot of confusion about what it actually means.

Labelling aside, let’s talk about taste. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, organic chocolate was pretty awful. A lot of it tasted like dirt, was chalky, or was just plain disgusting. Thankfully, there are a number of good options on the market now, and they won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Chocolove’s 73% organic dark chocolate bar is a glowing example. In February 2008, it was named as one of Bon Appetit’s top organic chocolate bars. But never mind the hype – it’s just a really good chocolate bar. It’s nice and rich, with hints of coffee and just enough bitterness to make me want to have this with a lovely glass of port.

ChocoLove is available here (mostly in the US, but some online sources probably ship to Canada) or you can buy directly from them online.