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How to pair coffee with food

Sitting down for a coffee break and an accompanying bite to eat is the highlight of many people's mornings, with most probably opting for a slice of cake to go with their drink.

But have you ever considered pairing your morning coffee with something savoury, or perhaps ordering a mug in a restaurant to complement your menu choice instead of browsing the wine list?

Pairing food with coffee is considered to be both an art and a science, and of course, we at DRWakefield are always interested in new and exciting ways that our specialty green coffee beans can be consumed.

Here, we're going to take a look at what chefs, restaurant critics and other coffee fanatics recommend you should be eating with your coffee to help bring a whole new tasting experience into yours and your customer's lives.

The science of food chemistry

Research has shown that it is not just what a food tastes like that determines its compatibility with a drink, but also the aroma of the two. Experts have reached this conclusion following experiments with gas chromatography and mass spectrometers, giving weight to the science behind the theory.

Therefore, similarly smelling and tasting items will complement each other well, while opting for two very different flavours in one meal or snack will create a more unusual dining experience.

Highlighting coffee notes

Before deciding which food flavours will go well with a particular coffee, it is important to have a grasp of the notes and cupping profiles of beans from different countries.

For example, those sourced from Brazil will tend to have a nutty aftertaste, while coffee from the East African bean basket – which features seven countries, including Kenya and Ethiopia – generally has strong notes of citrus due to its high acidity levels.

With different types of coffee having very different tastes, not every form of the beverage will go well with a slice of chocolate cake or a sweet pastry – but there will be an alternative out there that does.

Independent coffee shop owners and roasters are likely to already know which coffee flavours will best match which types of food, but consumers should bear in mind that they can also ask waiters or chefs in a restaurant about the coffees that would best complement their menu choices.

The beverage is commonly enjoyed alongside a dessert or as a final course in itself to finish off a meal, but there's no reason it can't form a perfect accompaniment to a savoury dish as well.

Savoury pairings

Ever considered using coffee to make gravy? Or putting it in your beans on toast instead of drinking it alongside them? Or how about adding a coffee-flavoured glaze to a rack of ribs?

There is a growing movement among food bloggers and independent cafes to experiment with savoury dishes that feature coffee.

Speaking to the Independent in April 2014, YouTuber John Quilter explained: "Think about the Wild West; think about being around a stove, on the ranch, with a pot of coffee, some beans, some water and a tomato.

"That's all you've got and you're going to throw all those ingredients in a pan and cook them down. It's a cowboy vibe with a coffee twist."

Mr Quilter does not use just any old coffee in his experimental recipes, but insists on using specialty beans – just like the ones DRWakefield sources from around the world.

"Arabica is an artisanal product. It's this complexity of taste which makes it ideal for cooking with," he added.

Oriental inspiration

What's more, it's not just traditional Western meals that work well with coffee, as many Eastern-inspired dishes can also be enhanced by a flavoursome cup.

For instance, London-based pop-up restaurant Som Saa has a treat for its diners at the weekends, serving Thai-style brunches alongside its very own coffee blend, which it claims is a brilliant accompaniment to dishes such as its Chinese doughnuts, rice porridge and crispy pork.

Although coffee may not be the first beverage you'd think of to drink alongside a Thai-inspired breakfast, it can work very well, opening up a whole new world of food and coffee pairings to be explored.

Sweet treats

Of course, drinking coffee with a savoury meal won't be everyone's cup of tea, meaning sweet pairings will still be favoured by many – after all, if something isn't broken, it doesn't need fixing.

However, it can very much depend on the roast of the beans as to whether or not the coffee will accompany a sweet course well.

Lightly-roasted beans will arguably work best alongside lighter, fruit-based desserts, such as tarts or cookies, while medium-roasted coffees would make a great accompaniment to creamy or spiced puddings – a creme brulee or an apple pie, for instance.

Finally, dark roasts are perfect for consuming with rich desserts, including cheesecakes, chocolate mousse and scones, as well as those that are coffee-flavoured themselves, such as tiramisu.

Photo credit: Thinkstock/alexxl66