Cheers To Beans! Cacao Bean Pairing - Part 1 (Trinidad)
Updated: Feb 1, 2021
Chocolate is such an amazing food item that is enjoyed in one form or another by many people across the globe. Yet, without cacao beans we wouldn’t have this amazing substance that intrigues the senses and lifts the spirits. Therefore, I wanted to spend some time highlighting cacao beans and give them the credit they deserve.
In my search for beans I came across Meridian Cacao Company in Portland, Oregon. They have a diverse array of beans from various countries. Thankfully they make it possible for a cacao bean “hobbyist” like me to obtain beans without having to buy bulk quantities. My initial order included beans from Tanzania (Kokoa Kamili Fermentary), India (Anamalai Estate), Peru (Ucayali River Cacao), and Vietnam (Ben Tre Fermentary). While they were out of one that I initially selected, Gino from Meridian Cacao Co. recommended beans from a microlot in Trinidad (Rio Claro) [which I might add was a great recommendation].
Although I enjoy unroasted beans, I was advised to roast them to kill off any potential bacteria and other forms of contamination. I followed Gino’s instructions and roasted a batch of each type of bean and quickly cooled it off the moment it came out of the oven. I love the wonderful scent emitted when I bake, but the aroma of roasting cacao beans was even more tantalizing. I was so happy that this beautiful aroma permeated the whole house! If only it could stay that way all the time.
To make sure that my roasting protocol did not preclude me from experiencing all that the beans had to offer, I roasted them at varying temperatures for different lengths of time in hopes of capturing the flavor profiles described for each bean online. Each batch brought to light a unique aspect of each country that could be experienced without having to travel. That is an incredible blessing since COVID-19 has ruled out any opportunity for me to travel.
Over the next few weeks (that turned into a couple of months) I sampled the beans and did a rotation with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I became captivated by tasting beans with different foods and it got me thinking of how best to pair them. With how popular chocolate pairing has become, I thought the same should be done with cacao beans!
Here are my thoughts on some possible pairings to help highlight the particular characteristics of each set of beans. While the sky's the limit as far as what you could pair with each batch of beans, I tried to find things that were easily accessible regardless of where you live. Everyone has different experiences with flavors, so some of these pairings may not be appealing to you. Nevertheless, that’s the fun thing about pairings! So I challenge you to find things that you think compliment the beans that you come across. Hopefully you’ll find it as entertaining and fascinating!
Since I was enjoying all the different types of berries available at the farmer’s market down the street, I decided to start with the microlot from Trinidad (Rio Claro) described as: Berry pie, complex, earthy. Of all the beans I sampled, this description was spot on regardless of the different roasting times and temperatures they were subjected to.
I like to snack on dried nuts and fruits and always have some in the pantry, so I figured I’d start there. I started off with almonds. I know it sounds like an odd combination, but think of dishes like berry glazed salmon or pork with raspberry balsamic glaze. Now don’t tell me that your mouth isn’t watering. That is what almonds did for these beans. They brought out some savoriness in this very berry tasting cacao bean.
Then I moved on to contrasting them with some fresh mint. Since mint is both sweet and savory, I found it brought out sweetness in this bean. Next, I paired it with dried fig and dried ginger, both of which were nice compliments because of the bean’s tangy profile.
I really enjoyed the flavor of these beans! My initial tasting conjured up a host of potential items for future pairings. I couldn’t help but think of combining them with peach and vanilla ice cream for the ultimate fruit cobbler experience. For those who want to pair it with a drink, I can envision this going well with champagne, or if you’re a cocktail kind of person you may want to consider a Bellini.
Since this entry is getting a bit long, I will pause here and fill you in on my pairing experiences as we travel to Vietnam and Tanzania next week. But in the meantime, find yourself some beans to sample and search through your kitchen for some potential items for pairing and start experimenting!