Pairing Coffee with Food “Soul Mates”
If you thought coffee was just a morning pick-me-up, get ready to expand your culinary knowledge and treat your taste buds to a world of flavors. We are far beyond the days when regular or decaf were your only options.
Joel Gargaro, owner/roaster and self-proclaimed coffee geek at Rock Creek Coffee Roasters, believes “Coffee pairing is a lot like wine pairing—same principles, just less grapes.”
Experts have determined that coffee has around 800 detectable flavor characteristics, more than twice the number of wine. These complex tastes may be difficult to discern for the average coffee drinker, yet even an untrained palate will benefit from proper pairings.
Joel breaks coffee into three simple groups: acidic, fruity and bittersweet. Here are a few of his pairing suggestions for these main coffee types to help you accentuate your brew.
- Acidity refers to a sharp, bright aftertaste. This is often present with coffees that have citrus notes. Acidic coffees pair well with fatty foods such as pastries and muffins.
- A variety of coffees have fruity overtones, yet are not acidic. For example, Ethiopian coffees are known for their distinct berry flavors. Fruity coffee pairs well with bitter foods such as dark chocolate.
- Bittersweet refers to a strong, desirable taste sensation. Bittersweet coffee pairs well with creamy desserts and beef.
Four Roasts from Rock Creek
Rock Creek Coffee Roasters offers a variety of roasts from around the globe. Joel selected four of his favorites and paired them with their food “soul mates.”
“Quite a few blogs pair dark roasted coffees, like Sumatra, with a chocolate,” he says. “The sous chef at the Northern thought that might be a little overwhelming, so my selections reflect their input.”
Costa Rica Santa Elena – Red Creek Coffee Roasters’ best-selling coffee. Medium roast with citrus notes and a buttery mouth feel.
Main Dish: Salmon
Ethiopian Ardi – Light to medium roast that is berry good. It has a juicy mouthfeel and more than a hint of strawberries.
Main Dish: Chicken
Dessert: New York cheesecake with or without berry topping.
Sumatra Mandheling – Coming in right behind the Santa Elena is this dark roasted Sumatra. It’s a heavy body, dark roasted coffee with chocolate and earthy notes.
Main Dish: Big, juicy steak
Papua New Guinea – Joel wants to keep this one a secret. Papua New Guinea is a cult classic. It doesn’t carry the cachet of other regions, but this medium roast coffee with chocolate cherry notes is a staff favorite.
Main Dish: Duck or pork tenderloin
Dessert: Chocolate cake