Like most Americans, I greet each day with a cup or two of coffee. I enjoy my morning ritual of selecting an exotic coffee from some far away land. As we have already discussed in a previous article, my favorite coffees hail from Indonesia. I also love Hawaiian coffees with almost equal fervor. Whether your choice is from Brazil, Burundi, or the Galapagos Islands, coffee is a beverage enjoyed throughout the world.
With this popularity in mind, why don’t more people know how to pair a good cup of Joe with their meals? One reason perhaps, is that most people give little thought when it comes to the coffees served in restaurants. How many times have you questioned the server and asked if the coffee being served is from Costa Rica, Ethiopia, or Jamaica? Perhaps a coffee menu is in order. Why not? Most restaurants offer wine, beer, and beverage lists.
Truth be told, most restaurants buy their coffee in bulk. This does not mean that the quality is not there, it just means selection has been omitted. Unfortunately, for most people, coffee is simply an afterthought.
This is the first in a three-part article that will cover pairing coffee with various meals and snacks. Let’s start with breakfast, and take a look at some classic coffee pairings. First up, fresh fruits and fruit based pastries.
Most berries pair ideally with coffees from Kenya or Haiti. These acidic coffees light up the fruit flavors, and add complexity to the flavor profile. I particularly enjoy blueberries and have found that coffees from Jamaica or Yemen better bring out the flavors of the slightly tart fruit.
As for stone fruits such as apricots, peaches, and plums, coffees from Haiti and Tanzania work well in tandem to bring out their fruit flavors. These coffees are typically bright and lively and wake up the taste buds.
Many of us often enjoy fruit tarts to start our day. Here, I would recommend medium to dark roast coffees from Brazil or Costa Rica. These coffees not only enhance, they balance and round out the flavor of fruit tarts.
For those with a sweeter tooth, and enjoy chocolate with their coffee; Lattes, Mochas, and Ristrettos, are the perfect match. Full-bodied coffees from Guatemala or Indonesia are the ideal choices for dark-chocolate brownies and chocolate cake. However, with chocolate cupcakes, I would go with a Colombian coffee to arouse the palate.
Many Americans are quick to reach for such morning standards as donuts or muffins. My pick is a smooth, sweet Costa Rican coffee when pairing with donuts. I also feel Costa Rican coffees pair nicely with muffins. I know my best friend and barista, John Sherer, can’t start his day without a muffin and 20 ounces of coffee. His preference is Mexican. He claims it jump starts his palate with its bright acidity and nutty qualities.
What about cinnamon buns and coffee cake? Coffees from Colombia and Guatemala are an excellent pairing with cinnamon buns. Their bright cup character, floral hints, and clean aftertaste naturally bring out the bun’s caramel and chocolate notes.
When it comes to coffee cake and Danishes, most coffees pair nicely. My preference is a light to medium roast coffee from Hawaii. Kauai is a perfect example in that its flavors accompany rather than over power.
What about croissants and scones? For me, there is only one choice to pair with a croissant. Take a cue from the French and go with a Café Au Lait. Who said scones only pair with tea? Several of my Aussie coffee drinking mates swear by enjoying their fruit scones with coffees from Haiti, Kenya, or Yemen. These coffees are not subtle or delicate. On the contrary, they are rich and full of flavor.
Chocolate dipped fruits are always popular, and my recommendation is most African coffees. They tend to bring out the fruit’s citrus qualities. If the chocolate is on the tart side, an Ethiopian coffee immediately comes to mind. Its floral notes tend to smooth out the tartness of some chocolates.
Let’s not forget white chocolate. With its milder flavor, white chocolate is at its best when paired with coffees from Colombia, Costa, Rica, and Yemen. These coffees are nicely balanced and their nutty qualities nicely enhance white chocolate.
Since I live in Europe, I know what most of my Italian friends are thinking … what about biscotti? A full-flavored biscotti pairs best with espresso. When skillfully prepared, espresso is rich and vibrant, and a sure way to enliven the day.
Now that we’ve covered our morning sweet tooth, let’s take a look at some typical breakfast pairings. Typically, the light and balanced flavors of Central American coffees are the ideal choice for many breakfast foods. However, I like to perk up my day with a bit of creativity.
The classic American breakfast of eggs, bacon or sausage, and wheat toast. A medium roast Costa Rican coffee is the perfect pairing. Wheat toast on its own, pairs nicely with light or medium roast coffee from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, or Guatemala will satisfy those who eat light, and perhaps watching their weight. This was my mother’s morning ritual. As a former dancer, she was forever paying particular attention to her waistline.
Another breakfast favorite is the omelet. Since a variety of ingredients such as mushrooms, basil, chevre, the list is endless; I feel only an Indonesian coffee from Java and Sumatra can handle such full and savory flavors.
Another popular egg dish is quiche. Yes, real men eat quiche and we love it. Once again, with the variety of savory ingredients, coffees from Indonesia best enhance the meal.
Crepes and pancakes are often breakfast standards. I often pair my crepe dishes with coffees from Hawaii. Kona is a particular favorite in that, though bold, it compliments rather than over power the dish. Pancakes served with maple syrup is a classic breakfast. Once again Kona coffee is an ideal accompaniment. I would also recommend coffee from Nicaragua. Coffees from the part of Central America pair wonderfully with pastry flavors.
Lastly, for those who prefer a light breakfast such as oatmeal, both Kona and Nicaraguan coffees are the ideal selection to round out the meal.
Breakfast in considered our most important meal of the day and it literally means to “break the fast.” Most nutritionists feel that what we eat for breakfast, affects what we will eat the rest of the day. A well- balanced meal supplies adequate amounts of protein, carbohydrate, and fiber. My point is to stop eating on the run. Take time to enjoy the morning and enhance breakfast with a savory cup of coffee.
When we continue with our next article in pairing coffee with our meals, we will add a bit of wine to the menu … “But that my friends, is a different story …”