As is often the case when anywhere near the vicinity, Saturday meant a trip to Paul A Young’s jewel of a shop on Wardour Street, this central location means it’s near impossible not to talk myself into a little detour, each visit I’ll uncover something new and thrilling. There’s no one right now in my opinion that can even match Paul, he’s at the pinnacle of his game in the chocolate industry, his enthusiasm, creativity and tireless innovation is frankly exhausting. Each visit to his shop rewards me a fresh indulgence with recent visits leaving me no choice but to purchase chocolates made with blood oranges, gingerbread, basil, marzipan, Soreen maltloaf, Marmite, artisan whiskys, tequila, Kernel brewery beer, even the unlikely sounding Ginger Pig Black pudding and always a salted caramel. I’m more than often tempted to pick up one of his intoxicating and indulgent brownies, a whisky laced Buns Night number the latest, making way for a spicy Valentines version, there’s always seasonal treats, not to mention selected single origin imported bars from the States. Lets just say that I spend far more than I ought in there, but not a penny do I ever regret.
Anyone that knows me will have heard me banging on about the similarities between coffee and chocolate and the beauty of pairing the two, I even rambled on about it in my interview with Paul for the Foodie Bugle, a notoriously difficult balance to get right as a chocolate, Paul successfully blended the two when he hooked up with Caravan the year before last producing a small number of chocolates and bars. The parallels between the two are hard to avoid, from their raw state as beans, through the drying process, roasting or conching and then even with the flavour profiles of the end product. Often when I sit down with a great coffee, I don’t want the huge sandwich or slab of cake that’s offered in most cafes, if I do fancy something to nibble, I’ll find it’s often a couple of squares of excellent dark chocolate that does the trick. I’d love to carry out some flavour pairing experiments on what beans work well together. Would a fruity, citrussy Madagascan chocolate work well with something like Workshop’s juicy Rwanda buff, or how about tempering an intense Square Mile Sweetshop with a serious Honduras bar from Duffy? In case you’re interested, I’m currently drinking a sweet and strawberry like Konga natural from Union with the very last of my almost savoury tasting Mast Bros Brooklyn blend bar and it’s going down very nicely indeed thankyou.
I’m delighted then when I catch sight of Paul’s latest experiment; an espresso martini chocolate combining the sublime Sipsmith gin with Tapped and Packed’s own espresso blend and 67% Los Ancones dark chocolate. My knee jerk reaction is to quickly purchase one and skip the short distance up the road to the latest outpost of the cafe where I order and prepare to be dazzled with my coffee and chocolate combo. Funnily enough I’d been hoping to squeeze something in on Tapped and Packed’s new roasting without really thinking about how. I’d found I’d stopped visiting with my previous frequency as favourite baristas departed, the coffee landscape of London shifted and moved as it does and my desire to chase the new limited too much repetition. As with an increasing number of cafe’s just recently, I’m told at least partly due to the opening of DIEDRICH UK’s roasting school, there were rumours shortly before Christmas that Tapped and Packed had acquired a roaster, it then emerged around last weekend that it was already being served in the shops, usurping previously served Hasbean, and that it was tasting very good. I can confirm this fact. Along with the ridiculously central Soho location I can see my visits increasing once again.
One of the things that haunted me from my trip to New York was a couple of instances where the relationship between coffee roasters and bean to bar chocolate was almost symbiotic, of course I had just a snapshot experience which was of Stumptown/Bluebottle and Mast Brothers, but it was encouraging to see the two walking alongside each other, bars sold on the counter of cafes as standard and coffee beans being incorporated into special chocolate bars. I love the idea behind Sixpoints 3BEAN beer project combining Stumptown coffee with Mast Bros cacao husks. This is something I’d champion seeing over here, Paul is doing well to single handedly shake off chocolate’s fusty and twee image (can you imagine anyone else not just attempting but pulling off a hamburger chocolate as he did at a recent event?) but imagine how that could be pushed further, to incorporate it into the far more forward moving and accessible world of cafe culture.
Anyway, back to my own cafe experience. I didn’t want to overpower the lovely and fruity but clean and delicate Kenyan filter I’d tried and loved the previous weekend with my rich, complex and boozy truffle, in this instance it seemed to make sense to pair like with like and so I went for an espresso. The experience was a joy. What would make me even happier would have been being able to buy that chocolate from the tapped and packed counter along with my choice of coffee.
Chocolate and coffee, in my mind at least, are a dream team. Someone open me a coffee and chocolate bar please. Or at the least offer the two together simply in an easily accessible format.
Just a thought….