As the first rays of sunlight filled the room, she quietly stirred. Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she woke to greet a glorious day. Surrounded by her nest of pillows, she brought herself to full height and savored the aroma that permeated the air.
Adorning her robe, she scurried down the hall. As Elena entered the kitchen, she greeted me with a heartfelt hug and a tender kiss.
“I’m brewing one of your favorites from Indonesia,” I flashed a quick grin.
“Balinese,” she queried.
“Yes,” I replied with a nod. “I awoke early and took my morning walk. I also ventured over to the Farmer’s Market for some fresh fruit.”
“What’s in the bag?” she playfully teased.
“Have a look,” I handed her the bag.
“Fresh cinnamon croissants,” she expressed her delight as she opened the bag.
“I also managed to stop off at the bakery.”
“Fresh cinnamon pairs wonderfully with coffees from Indonesia,” she playfully gave me a kiss on the cheek.
Once again I am joined by long-time friend and fellow sommelier, Elena Boiko. We are in Kyiv, Ukraine and will share some of our thoughts on pairing coffee with food and wine.
Coffees from the Asia/Pacific region are often favored for their robust and earthy characteristics. Typically, coffees throughout the Indonesian Archipelago have flower-like or herbal notes them. They are full-bodied and have low acidity. These coffees pair best with flavors such as cinnamon, caramel, maple, and toffee. Javanese coffee excelled during the Dutch occupation and sold throughout Europe. Javanese beans make an herbaceous strong hearty coffee that is full-bodied with a sweet overall impression. Balinese coffee, which is more typical of the Indonesian style, is renown for its malty richness. It is medium-bodied, with a delicate sweetness of honey. This elegant coffee is velvety smooth, with gentle-acidity, and it is ideal for desserts.
“Mmmm,” Elena stirred lightly in her seat. “All of my favorite sweets pair so nicely with Balinese coffee. Cinnamon Biscotti, apple pie, and banana crumb muffins.”
When it comes to cooking, Indonesian coffees will enhance the flavor of butter, cheese, and herbs. When pairing this type of coffee with wine, it is imperative to note the acidity of each. Take for example dishes that are seasoned with sage and spices. Sumatran coffees are a wonderful accompaniment. There is almost no acidity to the coffees found in this part of Indonesia. Coffees from Sumatra are intensely aromatic, and filled with earthy and herbal notes that linger on the tongue. The bold flavors of the coffee will stand up, yet not overshadow spicy dishes. As for a wine to pair, my first thought would be champagne.
“Agreed,” Elena flashed me a soft smile. “A dry sparkling wine would complement the spicy food quite nicely.”
“If I were going to select a red to pair with spicy food, I would stay with wines that are lighter-bodied and more fruit focused,” I paused to collect my thoughts. “Beaujolais and Grenache immediately come to mind.”
“I have often found that the higher alcohol levels in red wines can get in the way of the food,” Elena paused lightly. “And the lower acidity and higher tannins can leave one with a taste of bitter and astringent notes.”
“Another thought is too focus on the dominant flavors of the dish.”
“Definitely,” Elena was quick to agree. “If a dish has a more smoky-spicy note, a Malbec or a Tempranillo would enhance those flavors.”
“As would also recommend a Georgian Saperavi,” I was quick to add.
“If the meat is sweeter,” she paused lightly. “Like Italian sausage, I would pair it with a Primitivo.”
“Agreed,” I nodded. “Primitivo is known for its zest and pepperiness, yet it is only moderately acidic.”
“What Indonesian coffee would you pair with sweeter meat dishes?” Elena queried.
“Sulawesi,” I was quick to answer. “This coffee is also known as Celebes, Toraja, and Kalossi. Regardless of the name, coffees from the mountainous island of Sulawesi are renown for their complexity and low-acidity.”
“The infamous Kopi Luwak,” I joined in the merriment. “This refers to what many consider a delicacy. The beans have been eaten and excreted by an Asian Palm Civet.”
“Why would anyone believe that excreted coffee beans to be a delicacy? Elena openly displayed her puzzlement.
Many Indonesian coffee producers believe that since the Civets eat only select beans with fleshier pulps, the excreted beans will produce only the best coffee. It is also believed that as beans pass through the Civet’s digestive tract, fermentation occurs.”
“I know you speak Bahasa Indonesia fluently, how long did you live in Indonesia?” Elena inquired.
“Two years,” I paused in fond reflection. “I spent most of my time on the island of Java. I did travel quite a bit throughout the archipelago with Bali being a favorite stop.”
“Now you know my next question,” Elena giggled. “Did you try the Kopi Luwak?”
“But that my friends is a different story …”