This spring, it seems a number of beverages are eager to court chocolate. Coffee and wine are poised to become preferred companions as companies start to pair the classic confectionery with like-minded libations.
“You say chocolate and red wine to people and they're like, ‘Sign me up!’” noted Debra Music, vice president of sales and marketing at Theo Chocolate. “They're two of the most delightful foods you can enjoy.”
Theo is preparing to launch “A Delicious Journey,” a kit containing five of its most popular chocolate bars, along with instructions on how to choose wines that complement the bars, a glossary of terms related to wine and chocolate tasting, and a tabletop paper board on which to place the wines and make notes of the pairings. The idea was inspired by tasting parties Theo hosts at its Seattle factory, according to Music.
“We've had so much success with the events, and we know from orchestrating them here that people are hungry to broaden their understanding of how to taste wine, and chocolate, because they can both be intimidating subjects,” she said.
Coffee is also jockeying for chocolate's affections. In March, Starbucks and The Hershey Co. began shipping a line of chocolate products designed to pair well with coffee and tea. One product, individually wrapped tasting squares, promotes the idea of using bite-size portions to enhance the flavors of Starbucks coffee and Tazo teas served in the company's stores.
“The craftsmanship and artistry of Starbucks Chocolate brings the Starbucks experience outside of the coffeehouse setting,” Wendy Pinero, the company's vice president of consumer products, said of the brand reinforcement taking place.
It was only a matter of time before manufacturers discovered ways to formalize what's long been a casual relationship among the categories. The inherent qualities found in coffee, wine and chocolate rely on the same dictionary of descriptive terms, are subject to the same level of consumer reverence and are products more prone to sharing and community. It's no wonder many products in the categories are sourced through fair trade and related programs.
“People are definitely more interested in understanding where their food comes from and the relationship between them,” added Music. “Chocolate and coffee and wine — they all rely on this whole concept of ‘terroir,’ this sense of place. It's exciting, because it's a whole new area to explore.”
As an object of affection, chocolate seems to have yet more suitors waiting in the wings. Theo has also enjoyed high turnouts for parties pairing beer and chocolate. It just might be enough to entice more men into articulating the fruity notes experienced in a 78% dark chocolate when highlighted by a good swig of chocolate stout.