When I was a kid, I was really into reading books. That hasn’t changed to this date, but my taste was far less refined and far trashier than I’d ever imagined. Eschewing the best of Chaim Potok and throwing away my parents’ copies of the New Yorker, I had a friend who would supply me with the most sordid of romance novels. When I wasn’t nose-deep in His Potent Rogue’s Scent or The Very Virile Visigoth, I was paging my way through my grandmother’s old copies of Women’s World, which she would pass onto me after reading.
God, I loved those magazines. There’s nothing in there that compels me to read them now, but the diet tips never failed to amaze me. It seemed like every month there was a new scientific breakthrough about how eating dark chocolate- or drinking a glass of wine, having coffee, or eating muffins, could somehow help you shed your waistline, live a hundred years, or just feel awesome. These tricks aren’t new, though they are somewhat exaggerated. All of the above foods (with the exception of muffins) are rich in antioxidants and help to promote the production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, like anandamide and other endorphins, which in turn induce euphoria.
All of these foods are also high in flavonoids, a type of polyphenol, that along with other phenolic compounds, helps affect the flavor and mouthfeel of all of these foods. And since chocolate, wine, and coffee are relatively simple compounds harvested from around the world, all will essentially have unique “varietal” characteristics, to borrow a wine term, based on their country of origin, exposure to sunlight, and other variables. So aside from their health benefits, they have the potential to be extremely varied. We’ve all seen the surge of interest in single origin and bean-to-bar chocolates, and wine aficionados are well aware of the importance of appellation d’origine contrôlée– the French classification of geographical indications dating back to the 15th century for wine and other food-producing regions, a standard other countries have been quick to jump upon.
So with all of this deliciously territorial information in mind, I approached the latest Askinosie CollaBARation with trepidation and curiosity. The bar is simply constructed, made with Askinosie single origin cacao from Davao, Philippines, and Intelligentsia single origin coffee, from La Perla de Oaxaca, Mexico. Like the first CollaBARation, the packaging is minimal and striking. With a scant ingredient list and two mammoth flavor profiles, I wondered if the two would mingle sultrily in my mouth or if it would be a veritable clash of the titans on my tongue. Although the bar is not studded with coffee beans, the strong scent of coffee was immediately pervasive and lingering, and the dark chocolate was smooth and crisp, snapping audibly in my hand.
This is a strong, forceful bar, definitely one that could fell the family pet if consumed by the wrong party. It goes more along the lines of something you’d want to eat slowly after dinner rather than wolf down at a Riefenstahl film. It has a very slow, cool melt and creamy texture, initially chalky on the tongue. The coffee flavors are forward and present themselves in a fruity, dark flavor, like a good dark roast, but regrettably, there are just too many good things going on and too few fillers to balance it out. I’m all for stellar combinations of flavors, but this bar just doesn’t nail it. Good dark chocolate already has notes of coffee, caramel, and red fruit on its own. Adding more of these potent esters tips the scale too far and tends to be overkill. The flavor lingered and deepened on the tongue with this bar, and eventually settled with a slightly burnt, overly steeped flavor, bitter like an old cup of coffee. Albeit good coffee, but who’s counting when it’s that flat?
Unfortunately, the lack of sweeteners or emulsifiers, to stabilize the bar’s flavor and accentuate its more subtle notes, just threw me off. Despite the richness of the bar, I couldn’t eat more than two pieces. It was just too strong for my taste. While I’m normally a supporter of coffee and chocolate, the infusion of the two flavors proved to be this bar’s downfall. I’d be curious to see more infusions of Intelligentsia coffee in Askinosie’s bars, as they blended it superbly without any grittiness or sandy texture from the beans, but not with a cacao this forceful.