Perfect partners: how to pair coffee with other foods

Coffee is surprisingly versatile as a drink. Photo credit: Pixabay

Coffee and cake, anyone? Coffee and full English breakfast? As well as these traditional partners, coffee goes surprisingly well with a wide range of other foods, and taste-savvy consumers are pairing it just like wine. We find out how it’s done.

What to look for in your coffee

The trick to getting the right food/coffee pairing is to understand the subtleties of the coffee flavour. Coffee can vary in acidity, which affects the taste, ranging from smooth and rich to bright and crisp. Broadly speaking, if you can identify certain taste notes in your coffee (chocolate, red fruit, citrus) then that particular blend should pair well with that same food. Avoid food that’s too over powering, such as anything too garlicky or spicy.

Each country tends to specialise in producing a different coffee blend, as the flavour is affected so much by soil types, climate and growing conditions. Beans from South America tend to have smooth, chocolatey flavours, while those from Africa have lighter, more floral tones.

Before you can decide, you may have to teach yourself ‘coffee tasting’, in a similar way to wine tasting. Breathe in the aroma first, without tasting – that will give you an idea of the acidity levels in what you’re about to drink. Next, draw a little of the coffee into your mouth and slosh it around. Wait for the flavours to develop – they could be sweet or sour, fruity or nutty. If you taste a range of different coffees and beans of different origins, you’ll soon develop the ability to differentiate between the flavours.

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