The upgrading of edibles is now being compared to the pattern established by coffee. As coffee was Folgers to most Americans before it became an artisan, specialty gourmet item, chocolate is now following suit. Both cocoa and coffee beans have similarities, and they make a great pair, but it’s the upgrading of chocolate that led to Andrew Duffy of The Daily Gleaner calling it the “new coffee”. Hershey’s and Nestles were the Folgers and Maxwell House of decades gone by. Then suddenly Starbucks exemplified the locally roasted brands of specialty coffee. Baristas, experts at making a growing list of coffee drinks, joined the roaster in upgrading coffee to a distinctive treat, more than just something to drink with your breakfast eggs. A whole industry developed around grinds, different roast levels, country of origin, single origin vs blends….. Coffee became a culture, internationalized by espresso. Now one can travel to almost any country and enjoy a special coffee shop atmosphere with other coffee culture freaks. So comes the coffee-ing of chocolate, as it becomes more specialized, analyzed, artisan-ized into a gourmet product. As with coffee, and the more so with chocolate, health advocates have discovered that flavonoids inhabit chocolate. Dark chocolate has been upgraded to a health food. Many like to call it one of the four main food groups, or maybe it should be a special fifth food group. While chocolate has for several years been paired with coffee, as in mochas, chocolate cookies and coffee, chocolate cake with coffee, etc., it started marrying partners in the fruit and nut family and the flavoring became part of the coffee itself. Similarly, chocolate has moved beyond the chocolate covered cherry, strawberry and almond. Now we can find chili chocolate, cayenne chocolate, pink grapefruit filled chocolate, chocolate-covered pretzels and potato chips, and the new-old peanut butter, among many others. First it was the coffee culture, and now we’re seeing the development of the chocolate culture. Entire artisan shops sell nothing but chocolate, and one can even sit down and order specialty chocolate desserts in chocolate shops. And so it is that, indeed, chocolate - the new coffee - is the foodie item of the second decade of the twenty-first century.
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