In preparation for the Northwest Chocolate estival this past weekend, Aaron and I were fortunate enough to be paired with Caffe Vita for a coffee and chocolate pairing class. Cafe Vita is one of the most passionate-about-their-product companies we can think of, and their coffee made for some fantastic pairings because of it.
Prior to the festival Ross, Caffe Vita's lead trainer and coffee expert, met with us for about an hour to cup the coffees he wanted to feature and help us decide what pairings would be best at their cozy cafe / roastery / office up on Capital Hill. Ross took us through the main doors, past the barista counter, and into the back where we encountered this amazing, vintage industrial roaster.
Not shown in the picture is how tall this piece of equipment is, maybe 30 feet with the air scrubbers. You can see the beans through the peephole, turning and flipping inside the roaster, and below the cast iron doors are the cooling racks for the batch just before it. It's truly a beautiful machine and maybe the most steampunk like contraption I've ever seen.
After taking a few moments to admire the working roasting area, Ross led us upstairs to the office area, full of sculptures from around the world, young and hip staff making arrangements for travels across the seas to source beans, and small potted coffee trees on desks. Ross had prepared a selection of coffees for us to taste and a bit of information on each one, so we jumped right in.
Caffe Vita sources from all over the world and you can learn more about their single origin coffees here: http://www.caffevita.com/coffee/single-origin. Ross selected three origin coffees: Kenya, Ethiopia, and one from Nicaragua.
Kenya: Herbal aroma, like basil with some blackberry. The flavor was very savory.
Ethiopia: Floral aroma, like jasmine or lemongrass. Had the flavor of a light ginger.
Nicaragua: A wonderful aroma of cherry, cocoa, and apricot. The flavor had a wonderful almond and honey note to it.
Ross brewed up each batch using a pour over method while we waited eagerly for each one. Frankly, the pairing exploration, wines or teas or coffees, is one of the best perks to working with chocolate.
The first up was the Ethiopia. With the wonderfully floral notes we were unsure what chocolate to try first, so we just all started at different places. There were some good pairings, but the best fit by far was the Bourbon an Vanilla Bean. The vanilla was just such a nice compliment to the delicate flavors and the bourbon made it a luscious experience.
We then moved onto the Kenya, which may have been our most interesting pairing of the day. With such savory flavor notes to the coffee, the Basil chocolate quickly came to mind for all three of us. It was a match made in coffee & chocolate heaven. Ross flattered us by taking the pairing desk to desk and excitedly sharing with rest of the staff. Good thing we made plenty of samples for the festival.
The Nicaragua was our last pairing. The coffee had a wonderful cocoa flavor which really presented well on the front of the tongue, leaving a lot of room for other flavors to pair well with it. We found two pairings that worked very well, both the Fortunato #4 (a peruvian origin chocolate), and the Ghost Chilli chocolate with some heat. In other pairings, both of these flavors struggled. Think of it like neither had enough personal space to be comfortable. But this coffee filled so many different areas of the pallet that the chocolate was able to really shine and compliment the coffee brew.
Then it was off to the festival. Ross and Aaron gave a great presentation, thank you to all of those that made it to the early Sunday morning session!
And a big special thanks to Caffe Vita for partnering with Intrigue. Thank you guys and gals! They were kind enough to send us away with some super-fly, black thread with green-brimmed hats (which we love). It's debatable who wears it best. Cheers!