As crops, coffee and cacao have many similarities. Both grow in specific tropic conditions limited to select countries and are harvested as inedible beans. Additionally, they must both undergo extensive roasting and processing to become consumable. More so, each boasts a complex flavour and aroma profile comprising hundreds of compounds.
While they taste distinct from each other, chocolate and coffee flavours and aromas complement each other. Notably, they have shared a long history of being paired together. A popular form of this is the café mocha: a hot chocolate made with sweetened cocoa powder, milk, and a shot of espresso. Furthermore, artificially flavoured coffee candies and chocolates are easy to find in many retail stores.
While these products create opportunities for retailers and cafés, roasters are perhaps best placed to offer customers coffee-infused chocolate, a trend that is becoming increasingly popular around holidays such as Easter and Christmas.
Read on to discover how coffee-infused chocolate differs from mainstream coffee chocolate products and why roasters should offer it.
Understanding infused chocolate
Chocolate is a popular treat for adults and children, although its consumption tends to decrease as people get older. Ageing corresponds with a desire to eat “healthier”, so adults are more likely to choose organic single-origin, bean-to-bar chocolates. Specifically, ones that are free from allergens such as gluten and dairy, and have a limited environmental and human impact.
Many coffee-flavoured or scented products exist in today’s market, ranging from liqueurs and cakes to candies and soft drinks. Artificial coffee flavouring is usually made by combining man-made flavour chemicals, water, fractionated vegetable oils, and propylene glycol. Propylene glycol is a tasteless and odourless synthetic additive that dissolves substances better than water.
These coffee flavourings can consist of dozens of individual compounds, many of which have evolved over time to become more stable and long-lasting. It is important to note these flavours must be approved by a country’s unique food laws. Furthermore, the flavours must not react to any packaging material and processing equipment they come into contact with, or exceed certain cost constraints.
While specialty coffees boast unique flavours, mass-made coffee flavourings tend to have a uniform sweet flavour in order to appeal to the largest amount of customers possible. This usually means any of the coffee’s notable fermented, sweet or sour notes disappear – as well as those present in the chocolate itself.
Why infuse chocolates with specialty coffee?
Roasters are in a unique position to use specialty coffee to create a natural flavouring that can be added to any chocolate product. More so, creating a line of craft chocolate may be a natural extension of a coffee offering, as it shares many of the same production principles of specialty coffee. This includes focusing on creating smaller batches of premium, ethically produced high-quality products instead of mass-produced, lower quality, uniform-tasting chocolate. Factors such as these can help it appeal to your existing customers and even attract new ones.
Recent trends suggest a growing number of consumers are requesting coffee shops and roasters to offer more than just coffee. Adding a chocolate-infused coffee, or coffee-flavoured chocolate can help cater to these consumers while generating additional income. Chocolate is not only a natural pairing with coffee but also easy to store and sell.
A prime example of specialty roaster that has achieved this is RAVE Coffee, which offered limited edition coffee chocolate Easter eggs over the holiday period. Only 100 eggs were available, as each was handmade with blonde, caramelised chocolate and infused with the brand’s premium Costa Rica Caragires No.163 coffee. The final mix is said to have contained 30.4% cocoa solids and 4% freshly ground coffee, ground to below 15 microns to deliver maximum flavour and a smooth texture.
Roasters can use past crop coffees to create a flavouring, which will prevent unnecessary waste. The process for extracting natural coffee flavouring from beans includes using carbon dioxide, liquid or solvent-based extraction, as well as steam distillation. Different production methods and roast profiles will impact a coffee’s extracted flavour compounds, polyphenols, and caffeine levels – resulting in different coffee flavourings being produced. Chocolate processing and pasteurisation will also impact the coffee flavouring, as it may cause degradation.
Infused chocolate combinations and pairings
The steps roasters take to infuse coffee into chocolate will differ depending on the volume produced and who it is being produced for. Furthermore, as with any new venture, it will require education, preparation, and funding. Below are some ideas of the combinations available for chocolate infusion in terms of texture and acidity, as well as mouthfeel, body, aftertaste, and complexity.
Dark chocolate pairs well with slightly bitter dark-roasted espresso beans with smoky notes. Additionally, it pairs well with flavours such as cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and caramel as well as fruits like cherry and orange. Nuts, fried fruit and salty additions such as sea salt or pretzel pieces also make fantastic taste combinations.
Roasters can range between Vienna and Italian roasts to that with more balance, such as a French roast. Examples of origins that can be used include Indonesian, Brazilian, Ethiopian, and Guatemalan.
Milk chocolate with a cocoa content of less than 55% pairs well with the acidic and fruity notes found in light and medium roast coffees. Ones with a cocoa content ranging from 50% to 70% have lower acidity and heavier mouthfeel. These coffees have delicate flavours which would be easily overwhelmed by a stronger or darker coffee. Suitable origins include Colombian, Kenyan, Sumatran, Yemeni, and Ethiopian.
While chocolate generally has less than 20% cocoa solids content. Roasters can enhance the sweetness of this chocolate with bold coffees that have significant spicey, acidic, and fruity notes or ones that echo its sweetness.
Deciding to launch or contribute towards an infused chocolate line can be daunting. However, with the appropriate preparation, it can be a popular addition to the existing product range. Whether you already have a branding and packaging idea in mind or want one to supplement your existing design and colours, MTPak Coffee can help you.
At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable packaging options that can be fully customised to suit your business needs. Our team of experts can help you find the best material for your specialty chocolate – whether it needs to be compostable, biodegradable, or recyclable – while our creative team can work with you to design packaging that tells your unique story to the world.
Our range of packaging options is made from renewable materials. Our boxes are made using 100% recycled cardboard, while our sustainable bags are made using kraft paper, rice paper, or multilayer LDPE packaging with an environmentally friendly PLA lining. We also offer our clients a quick turnaround time of 40-hours and 24-hour shipping time in addition to low minimum order quantities (MOQs) for those looking to remain agile while showcasing a commitment to the environment.