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Coffee and food pairings

Written by . Published on under the Coffee category.

An espresso on a wooden table

About a week ago, I posted a question on Instagram: what is your favourite coffee and food pairing? I asked this question as a result of a discussion I was having with a friend and my ongoing thoughts on coffee as a culinary experience. Three respondents indicated they liked something sweet and/or a pastry with their coffee. One person said that their favourite coffee and food pairing was an espresso affogato, a surprising response because I did not consider that espresso affogatos are in fact already a pairing of coffee and food.

At home, I do not usually have anything special with a brew. If I do have a snack with a cup of coffee, I will have either crackers or a biscuit (afternoons only!). I understand that food can impair my ability to taste coffee but sometimes this is okay. I like a chocolate biscuit with a cup of coffee because both coffee and biscuits make me feel good and there’s something comforting about this combination to me. Thus, it’s not so much the taste of coffee and digestives as it is how these two food stuffs bring me comfort.

When I am out, the story is a bit different. I will have a cup of coffee with a lunch but I typically am not able to appreciate the coffee as much for what it is. Coffee feels almost secondary to the meal. That’s not to say coffee is not important: I often remark in my head how a coffee is great when paired with a meal. I just might not put as much thought into the flavours as I would if I had a cup of coffee on its own. And that’s okay: tasting coffee is hard enough without eating too.

I am not entirely sold on coffee and food pairing just yet. Maybe that’s because cafes have already figured out that coffee goes well with pastries. But pastries in themselves are delicious. Are there any specific types of pastries that pair with particular flavour notes in a coffee? Ultimately, to figure this out one would have to do a lot of tasting. The key would not be to understand the coffee in isolation, rather how its flavours interact with other flavours.

If I ordered an Ethiopian coffee and a barista said to me that it goes really well with a certain item on their pastry menu, I might be inclined to try that snack over another knowing that I’m in for an experience that a lot of thought has gone into. If such a recommendation has been made, the barista must have had a good experience with two flavour combinations.

Maybe there is nothing else to be said on this topic. But I think there is a discussion to be had around coffee and food pairings. Most speciality coffee shops I have visited have done a great job curating delicious baked goods which pair well with their coffee. I guess I’m curious to hear what food you have with coffee. Do you enjoy coffee with a meal? Or is coffee something you only drink on its own? I’m really curious to hear your thoughts (while this sounds like the outro to one of James Hoffman’s videos, I am sincere!).

My favourite coffee and food pairing is the chocolate digestive and coffee. I don’t have a particular coffee I like with digestives because the sugar and chocolate flavours in the digestives can be quite overpowering. But next time I have a brew I’ll need to think more about this.

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