On a crisp Sunday morning, shadows slowly shifted as the sun started to warm the streets of downtown Fort Collins. Chatter echoed down alleyways as shops began to open and brunch was being served. “Joe, party of three,” a hostess called from a restaurant patio.
A small, but growing crowd began to gather in front of Nuance Chocolate, eagerly awaiting entrance to an event that would leave them buzzing with intrigue, caffeine or some combination of the two.
It was Sunday Sept. 25, the morning of the sold out coffee and chocolate pairing presented by local businesses Nuance Chocolate and The Coffee Registry.
At 214 Pine St., Nuance is nestled in the heart of a thriving artisan food and beverage production district. It neighbors the Welsh Rabbit Cheese Shop and sits directly across the street from Compass Cider.
At the strike of 10:30 a.m., guests funneled in.
Classical music and rich, sweet scents lent an atmosphere of warmth as attendees made their way to the small tables around the shop that surrounded the central display of freshly made truffles and chocolate bars.
Guests were greeted by co-owner Toby Gadd, who founded the shop with his wife Alix, and Jon Lange, a roaster and barista trainer for local coffee distributor The Coffee Registry.
“How many of you have been here before?” asked Gadd.
More than half of the guests raised their hands.
The excited group, ranging from their early 20s to 70s mingled, expressing their interests in fine coffee and chocolate. Some had experienced prior tasting events, while others were first timers to this type of gathering.
“It’s chocolate,” a patron said with a chuckle. “How could it not be great?”
In front of each seat laid five different types of dark chocolate atop descriptive placemats. They designated each chocolate’s origin and gave an overview of tasting notes. To the left, there was a coffee mug and a description of each coffee to be served.
The tasting began with an introductory explanation of how Nuance makes its chocolate, starting with what Gadd called “show and smell.”
Chocolate bean pods were passed around followed by products from further along in the production phase in making small batch chocolate.
Gadd explained that in the past, he had paired the various chocolates and coffees for patrons himself.
“What I found about pairings is that people always want to do it themselves too,” Gadd said.
Gadd decided to change the process of the pairings to become a more interactive experience for the guests. He encouraged them to talk about which pairings work and which don’t as they tasted each chocolate with each coffee.
“It should taste good together, but sometimes it won’t,” Gadd said. “It can be fun to collaborate with neighbors, but try to keep your own head a little objective.”
As coffee was being poured, Lange began to describe its journey into to our mugs.
“Each coffee cherry is hand picked, only when ripe,” Lange explained. “And each tree only produces about one pound of coffee per year.”
He described how after receiving the imported coffee, his company makes several sample roasts and runs them through trials in a process called cupping, which is essentially a professional tasting to measure the coffee’s body, sweetness, acidity, flavor and aftertaste.
“It takes about 2,000 hours for the coffee to go from germination to brewing,” Lange said.
As the coffee began to flow and the chocolate was nibbled in parallel, lively culinary conversations took hold of the room.
Gadd and Lange roamed from table to table, making conversation with guests regarding their observations.
“I thought the Guatemalan coffee made the Ghanaian chocolate a bit more acidic,” one guest noted to another.
“Bad acidity is sour,” Lange said. “Good acidity is brightness.”
“It’s amazing,” another guest said. “I never noticed how coffee changes in flavor as it cools.”
“Coffee and chocolate work in opposite ways,” Gadd explained.
Flavors hit hard at first with coffee because of its heat. With chocolate, it takes time to notice subtitles because you need to warm it in your mouth first.
“I think the way to do it is take a little bit and nibble, then let it melt,” Gadd said. After it’s melted, you’re to take a sip of coffee, and try to notice flavors created from the combination.
By the end of the tasting, guests were fully caffeinated and ready to tackle the rest of their days, presumably with a greater knowledge of artisan chocolate and coffee.
Kate, a Nuance employee and CSU graduate student in Fermentation Sciences said that Gadd has previously spoken at CSU. He talked to members of her program about chocolate production and the science behind it.
For others interested in the science of coffee and chocolate or those who simply want a taste, learning about chocolate and coffee can be as easy as attending a pairing.
For more information about Nuance Chocolate or The Coffee Registry, visit nuancechocolate.com or thecoffeeregistry.com