In all my years of going out for coffee with friends, there is one sentence I’ve heard more than any other (with the exception of, perhaps, “How are you?” and “My my, Hannah, you do look radiant today; how do you manage to be quite so effervescently stylish and full of rainbows and laughter and unicorns?”).
The sentence to which I refer always comes on the back of my ordering a certain coffee – a decaf long black – and it goes something like this:
“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?”
So I say to anyone reading this today that no, ordering a long black in its decaffeinated form does not defeat the purpose of ordering a coffee. The purpose of coffee for me is not to jump-start my internal organs. It is to enjoy the taste and the company of whomever I’m with, and to be able to drive home afterwards without feeling like butterflies are singing inside my head.
Caffeine makes me go wonky.
Zabar’s Espresso Crunch
Zabar’s is a Jewish gourmet delicatessen in New York, and is one of my favourite hunting grounds for fancy chocolate in said city (along with Garden of Eden, Whole Foods, and The Food Emporium). In my most recent visit I was excited to find, alongside the myriad upmarket chocolate companies I hold dear, a Zabar’s line of chocolate. I immediately snatched up this Espresso Crunch bar, for it turned out that the “crunch” of the title came not from coffee beans but cacao nibs. And we all know how much I love me some nibs.
Bravo, Zabar’s. Bravo. I only wish I could have snuck some of your gloriously smelly cheeses through the airport too.
The aroma of this chocolate is less like strong coffee than a coffee shop. Close your eyes and imagine sitting on a soft couch in a cafe while a barista whirrs a cappuccino through the coffee maker and the cafe owner pulls a tray of brownies from the oven. That’s what this bar smells like: sweet, chocolate, a hint of coffee, baked goods.
The taste, however, is immediately coffee. And I’m not talking a muted mocha flavour, either – this chocolate pops like a dark and strong espresso. A few bites in, and the coffee fades into a background note that accentuates the smoky and woodsy notes of the chocolate. The nibs help in this regard too, by providing the occasional bitter jab of roasted cocoa as well as a textural contrast.
A few more bites in (oh, who are we kidding, I mean “after eating the bar in one sitting”), and all these flavours combine into a taste reminiscent of rich, dense brownies. I found this chocolate far from bitter and instead quite sweet, with brownies and hot fudge sauce the recurring images in my mind.
I’ve been home a month now, and believe you me: at the moment of nibbling this and knowing I couldn’t get more, I felt the distance. Dear world, why won’t you pay me to travel you forever?