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Delightful duo: Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest sure to awaken your senses

Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest attendees will notice plenty of new elements at this year’s event.

A Nitro 5K Chocolate & Coffee Run will start the festivities a week early on Saturday, March 9. The fun run is new to the event and is presented in partnership with Run Fit and local coffeemakers Villa Myriam Roasting. It is open to all levels, abilities and ages.

Another addition is Cups and Cakes on March 15.

“We’re opening up the doors for the festival to a really small group of people,” said event co-producer Dean Strober of Blue River Productions. “It will be capped at 80 people, and this is a really intimate coffee tasting experience. It’s called Cups and Cakes. We’ve heard from attendees and also coffee roasters looking to have a more intimate experience with each other where people can learn more about the coffees and the roasters can really talk more about the science that goes into the roasting. This is a two-hour, intimate, coffee-tasting experience where attendees will spend 15 to 20 minutes with six to eight different coffee roasters tasting all the different coffees, learning, really, about what makes their coffee different from all the others.”

The Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest will feature demonstrations, a baking contest and more than 100 vendors. (Courtesy of Blue River Productions)

The festival on March 16 and 17 will feature unicorn cupcake and cookie decorating classes by local bakery Q’s Cakes & Sweets Boutique. Each class is $5. Go To Art Camp will hold painting classes for a $5 fee. Participants will paint a different coffee or chocolate-themed portrait. Preregistration is available on the event website or people can sign up at the festival. Selfie takers will delight in Ripples’ “selfieccino.”

“There’s this company out of Florida that’s coming out, and they have this machine where they can create latte art from any photograph, so at the festival you can literally download their app, send them a photograph from your phone and they’ll print that on your latte, Strober said. “They call it a selfieccino. They can do it all right there at the booth. And they’re teaming up with a local coffee shop called The Brew.”

The event produced by Strober and his wife, Lena Armstrong-Strober, showcases about 150 new and returning vendors. There also will be continuous live entertainment on the music stage and culinary presentations on the kitchen stage.

“The culinary seminars this year are really going to focus on chocolate making, how chocolate is made, how it’s grown, how it’s created from the bean, so people really get to know where it all comes from,” Strober said. “The coffee seminars on the kitchen stage are going to focus on a wide range of topics from the roasting and brewing techniques to really educating coffee drinkers about differences between nitro coffee versus cold brew, what does fair trade versus organic versus direct trade mean. There’s a lot of new terminology out there that coffee roasters are putting on their packages and we’re trying to educate coffee drinkers so they can make more informed decisions about what they want to drink.”