In many ways, cacao and coffee are practically kissing cousins. Though not indigenous to the same region (chocolate is native to Latin America; coffee to Ethiopia), the plants have long been closely linked, courtesy of both an overlapping trajectory of transplanting and the almost startlingly similar set of processing steps it takes to transform each into the treats we love.
Portland, Oregon micro-chocolatier Sahagún has taken chocolate and coffee's connection one step further with the ingenious (and cheekily named) KA-POW! bar, in which single-origin coffee beans replace the traditional roasted cacao.
And it does certainly pack a punch.
Chocolate maker (and coffee lover) Elizabeth Montes is the brains behind the bars: Using craft roasters like Four Barrel and Extraco, she hand-makes each KA-POW! by marrying the kick of coffee with smooth cocoa butter and a cane sugar sweetness. Rather than being distracted by a strong chocolate flavor, the coffee here cuts straight through. The bar I tasted featured Water Avenue Coffee's El Savadorian lot, El Rosario; its somewhat gritty texture is reminiscent of stone-ground chocolate, and the flavor is not unlike actually just chomping on a couple roasted coffee beans, only sweeter.
How did Montes arrive at the idea to make a "chocolate" bar this way, minus the cacao? "I had tried to turn other things into chocolate before then by taking the flavor of something and combining to take the shape of chocolate," she said in a recent e-mail. "You see, chocolate is sexy and many other foods are not. But by locking the idea of chocolate in the room with the idea of coffee, when you crack open the door, this is what you see and there it is: KA-POW!"
We couldn't have said it better ourselves, but if you're looking for details on how the bar is made, the chocolatier ain't sayin'. When asked about the technique used to turn coffee beans into this seemingly magical cacao substitute, Montes responded, "I can't describe it. It's really boring. Just use your imagination."
Or, you know, just lick the melted stuff off your fingers.