Written by Tales From the Lounge
Author: Ron Hancock
At first thought, the idea of Cigar and Chocolate pairings can make you go “HUH?”, but looking at them, they have more in common than you might think. Both are derived from unique plants that have similar factors that change their tastes. Both are affected by things like topography, weather, soil conditions and harvesting processes as well as seed type. And finally, both are “guilty pleasures” of the oral and olfactory senses. So, pairing them together is more natural than you would think.
Both tobacco for cigars, and cacao beans for chocolate, get their flavor from many factors. But probably the most important is the topography. Topography is important because of not only the weather (amounts and frequency of rain and sun), but the soil contents and nutrients play important parts. In addition to natural soil content, the amount of rainfall, and drainage play a part. Dense soil with low drainage traps more nutrients, hence flavors; whereas looser soils with more rainfall produce less flavorful profiles. Depending on the area, the amount of sun can dry out the plants, pulling moisture out of the plants. All these factors and others provide the plants with unique flavor influences. Rains running down volcanic mountains bring minerals and flavors that are different than plants grown in regions where soil is quite different. These topographical differences can add flavors such as earthy/woody or floral/fruity just from the natural locales.
“LEARNING THE FLAVOR IS ALL ABOUT KNOWING WHERE IT IS FROM.”
Have you lost track of whether all that was about tobacco or cacao? Well it was both! Another thing cigars and chocolate have in common is genotypic. Seeds are interesting things. They hold the genetic code of the plant they came from. If you take seeds from a crop, and store those for 100yrs, then plant them, you will have genetically the same plants you had 100yrs ago. As such, seeds are a valuable thing in both tobacco and cacao production. Seeds from good crops are harvested and stored for future plantings to reproduce that plant again if desired. One of the neat things about this process is if you take that seed and plant it in a different region, you will have the same plant, but it will produce something different based on the regional factors we just talked about. We hear in the tobacco industry about cigars containing tobacco for old plants. They didn’t store the tobacco leaves for that long. They pulled seed from an old crop that produced leaves with certain traits they wanted to use again in a particular cigar. So, when you hear “they are using tobacco from the 1953 crop” it means they used seeds they harvested in 1953.
Processing of the plants is similar as well, as both are harvested, dried, fermented, aged, and blended! Once the beans and leaves are harvested, they are dried and allowed to ferment for a time and even aged. Blenders will take beans or leaves for their products, respectively, and blend them to acquire the desired look, texture, and taste. They can be aged in environments to add additional flavors such as in cedar lined room, old bourbon barrels, or with other plants till the blenders think they are ready to be processed.
Interestingly, like other things that can be paired with the two, they both have “flavor wheels”. If you look at the two wheels, you will see a lot of flavors that cross between the two. Earth, nutty, spicy, and floral are just a small sample of the flavor profiles you will find in both.
The similarities between the plants and products could be completely blurred if you didn’t know anything about either. I could explain the growing, harvesting, processing, and blending processes in general terms and you would not be able to tell which I was talking about. Not until we took that final product, and handed it to you, would you guess. So, pairing them turns into a fun, delectable treat for anyone who loves both.
LET’S EAT : TASTING TIPS
Now that we have gotten that techno babble out of the way and convinced you this is “a thing,” it’s time to eat and smoke.
Both processes are the same for the most part. They require a quiet environment, patience, and a clean palette.
- An environment free of distractions and background noise is preferable. Being able to concentrate helps.
- Make sure you have time for the experience (yes, it is an experience). Don’t be in a hurry. Savor the tastes and let new ones emerge as you get further into both.
- Make sure you have a clean palette. Crackers, apple slices, or water (tap or sparking), are good palette cleansers. These will allow you to clean the palette of remaining tastes without imprinting theirs.
- If you use apple or crackers, follow up with water to get any leftover debris out of the way.
· Never eat cold chocolate – you won’t be able to taste it.
· Start from the lower percentage chocolates and work your way up. Milk chocolate on up to darker chocolate.
· Take your time between bites to see what flavors are lingering
· Fight the urge to eat the whole chocolate immediately!
- Be sure to toast the foot for an even burn, and smoother start.
- Angle the cigar upward behind your front teeth.
- Retrohale to ignite your olfactory senses and activate your palette.
- Don’t smoke too fast to avoid performance issues and flavor deterioration
TRY THESE PAIRS
Dark with dark, light with light
- 30% Milk Chocolate
- Crux Epicure
- Illusione Epernay
- 50% Chocolate
- Tatuaje K222
- Principle Aviator Nightflight
- Drew Estate Herrera Esteli
- 70% Dark Chocolate
- Black Label Trading Company
- LFD Chapter 1
- Arturo Fuente Anejo
ABOUT TALES FROM THE LOUNGE
Tales from the Lounge is a new cigar culture site that focuses on growing the views of cigar smokers nationwide. Specializing in reviewing cigar lounges, cigar lifestyle content, and education. TFTL is a Frisco, TX based organization calling Industrial Cigar Co. their home. Stay tuned for new exciting content every month!