By Alyssa

Winter is a slower time around the bakery, but a wonderful opportunity for our team to learn and grow when the day-to-day bustle of the holidays subsides. This year we embarked on a project that was inspired by the parallel processes that create coffee and chocolate—two products that are near and dear to our hearts at Ellie’s.

Both coffee and chocolate start out as a fruit: cherry-like berries that surround two coffee beans, and large fruit pods that contain dozens of seeds, or cacao beans. Both plants grow well in tropical regions, and countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico are top producers of both products. Once the fruits are ripened, they are harvested and the flesh of the fruit is typically removed to reveal the beans, sometimes after a period of fermentation that imparts flavor upon the beans. The coffee and cacao beans are then dried and eventually roasted; the roasted cacao beans are milled into chocolate, and the coffee beans are ground and their flavor is extracted with water to produce coffee.

As our team learned more about the similarities between coffee and chocolate, one of our bakers, Jen Bootz, came up with a great idea for a collaboration with the barista team: to create coffee drinks and macarons that pair together and feature single-origin coffees and chocolates.

We reached out to our friends Sam and Sophie at New Harvest Coffee Roasters, who recommended some fantastic coffees for us to feature as espresso. The bakers and baristas tasted countless coffees and chocolates, and were most inspired by a light roast Guatemalan El Porvenir, an organic Sumatran, and an organic Ethiopian from the Hambela estate.

In the Guatemalan coffee, we tasted notes of bright lemon and orange that was balanced beautifully with a buttery sweetness, so we created an Orange Zest Mocha beverage with a 70% dark chocolate, also from Guatemala, crafted by the talented folks over at Raaka Chocolate. The chocolate from Raaka has a bright wine-like acidity and fruitiness that wonderfully complements the citrus and brown-butter notes of the El Porvenir espresso. The heavenly aromatics of the freshly grated orange zest ties the flavors together without overwhelming any one component, creating the most refreshing mocha we’ve ever tasted!

This drink is paired with our Orange Ganache and Brown Butter Toffee macaron (rather than incorporating the coffee itself, our bakers were inspired by the toffee they tasted in the espresso). An espresso and this macaron are a match made in heaven for an afternoon treat!

With the Sumatran espresso, we tasted spicy peppercorns and an earthiness that reminded us of cedar wood. It really challenged our palettes, and we thought it would show our customers the amazing range of flavors that can be found in coffee across the world. For our signature drink, we wanted to play off of the pepperiness of the espresso, so we created a Red Chili Spicy Chai blend from our friends at MEM tea. The Chili Chai blend features cacao, ginger, cinnamon, and peppercorns, which when sweetened and steamed with milk create a rich and complex take on the standard “dirty chai.” Our bakers were on the exact same page as the baristas for this one, so they created a Red Chili Chai macaron to go with our Sumatran espresso drink.

The Ethiopian is my personal favorite, as it has an incredible juicy mouthfeel and tastes of blueberries and blackberries. If you close your eyes while drinking this espresso, you might not even recognize it as coffee! We created another mocha with this espresso, featuring a single-origin dark chocolate from Madagascar and a Maine blueberry syrup topped with freeze-dried blueberry powder. This blueberry mocha is truly another jewel of teamwork: the naturally complementary flavors of the chocolate, syrup, and espresso allow a strong chocolate-berry flavor to come through, without being cloyingly sweet or artificial. To pair with the Ethiopian espresso, our bakers crafted a Blueberry Dark Chocolate macaron, featuring the same chocolate and berries as our mocha.

With this single-origin project, our team gained an incredible amount of knowledge about coffee and chocolate origins. This was an opportunity for our team to eat, work, play, and learn together—it was an experience that managers dream of for their employees, and something that will inspire us to continue to challenge ourselves in our creative pursuits.

But above all, my takeaway from this project has been a feeling of immense gratitude. It is a small miracle that the Earth has produced these remarkable flavors, that specific regions and growing conditions can create completely different plants that perfectly complement each other. I am furthermore grateful to the countless individuals who have dedicated their lives to cultivating and crafting coffee and chocolate, and to the even greater miracle that has allowed me to be in a time and place to enjoy such an abundance of both products from around the globe.

We look forward to sharing this experience with you!

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