Not all collaborations are destined to be a Christopher Elbow and Boulevard Chocolate Ale mega-hit.
Consider the recent request Elbow fielded from a San Francisco nail salon where you can get your nails lacquered to resemble his Jackson Pollock-esque color-splashed and -splattered artisanal chocolates.
“It is hysterical, but I don’t think it would work,” says Elbow, owner of Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolates.
And then there was the proposal to team up on a chocolate-based salad dressing.
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“We get a ton of requests to collaborate,” he says. “A lot of them just don’t make sense with our product mix.”
But chocolate and coffee?
Well, that’s a no-brainer, which is why Christopher Elbow Artisanal Chocolate and P.T.’s Coffee Roasting Co. wound up working together to meld single-varietal cacao and single-origin coffee beans into co-branded coffee-flavored chocolate bars.
Back in March, The Star caught a glimpse of the research and development process as the chocolatier and P.T.’s co-owners Jeff and Maritza Taylor and Fred Polzin sampled possible combinations at Elbow’s Crossroads shop.
The best matches were released in August:
42 percent Dominican Republic milk chocolate and Sumatra Karo Highlands coffee (with flavor notes of cola, tobacco and dark chocolate)
64 percent Madagascar dark chocolate and Ethiopian Deri Kochoha coffee (with flavor notes of raspberry, butterscotch and lemon verbena)
72 percent Venezuelan dark chocolate and Colombian Finca Santa Maria coffee (with flavor notes of honey, key lime and white grapes).
“You probably have to be a pretty big coffeehead to like these bars because the coffee is strong,” says Elbow, who admits to having his own strong coffee predilections and applauds the recent explosion of entries into Kansas City’s coffee scene, including P.T.’s new coffeehouse in the Crossroads.
This time around, Elbow proposed the collaboration after he noticed the Topeka-based artisanal coffee purveyor was placing big orders on his company website during the holiday season.
“Jeff and I started talking about the similarities between single-origin chocolate and single-origin coffee,” Elbow recalls. “I had never really put too much thought into trying to marry those flavors. Usually it’s all about the chocolate. But this time it was the reverse.”
“Chris is a sheer joy to work with,” Jeff Taylor says. “We had a very easy conversational style because we talk the same language. He gets what we do.”
Taylor says an increasing number of small, local food artisan producers across the country are collaborating “to multiply efforts and learn from each other.”
Coffee and beer is a hot combination right now but coffee and chocolate is less common. Meanwhile, the Ethiopian bar has been the most popular so far; Taylor has restocked three times in the last month. But just as you fall in love with one bar, be ready for subtle changes when the next batch of coffee comes in.
“Coffees are seasonal, like fruit, and generally there is one crop per year,” Taylor says
Elbow sees the end of one batch of coffee as the opportunity to reformulate and keep the partnership and product line evolving.
The trio of 3.5-ounce bars retail for $8.50 each. They are currently available at both company stores, and will be moving into coffee shops and specialty food stores across the country starting in September.