By Yashasvi Kannangara
You know how when you say ‘let’s do coffee’ and you try and plan it around mealtime, well good news for you! You’re not alone. In fact, so many Sri Lankans are guilty of this that it is fast becoming an essential part of the local coffee culture here in Colombo. You think I’m lying? Okay. Imagine a coffee date with a friend. Do you see yourself sitting in front of just a cup or two of coffee? Or are there hearty sandwiches, chocolaty waffles, spicy crepes or large slices of moist cake surrounding it? There is, isn’t there? And some of you just thought of bowls of creamy pastas and juicy burgers as well, didn’t you? Well, that’s just it! Coffee, to many of us, comes with a plate (and if you’re anything like me, plates) of food.
I have done this time and time again. Coffeehouses in Colombo are always full during lunchtime and closer to dinner. Some of us go for high tea and gulp down large mugs of coffee and cream (guilty as charged) because what better way to quench our thirst when stuffing our gob with delectable finger food? And I, for one, am thankful for this. A coffee date is always a feel good thing; full stomachs, aromatic brews, cozy chats and great company.
Chethi, an avid coffee drinker confessed for her love for ‘coffee meals’. “I love the feeling of washing down a hearty meal with a good cup of coffee. It’s the perfect end to a meal and why wouldn’t I combine the two loves of my life – food and coffee,” she says with a ‘don’t-you-agree’ nod. And I do. While I admire and appreciate the patient, indulgent sips of a true coffee aficionado who’s single cup offers him all the satisfaction in the world, the lesser of us coffee-drinking mortals enjoy the idea of coffee with an abundance of food.
So, here’s a little guide to help you appreciate the savour of fine coffee while enjoying a bite of your favourite food, be it breakfast, lunch or dessert. These are a few classic coffee-food pairings that are easy to enjoy at home or out on the town.
Fruits and fruit-based sweets can offer a lighter, healthier pairing option for some coffees. Just be careful not to overdo sour tones in your pairing selections – the results can be cacophonous!
- Berries – Kenyan and Haitian coffees are great with any kind of berries, but Yemeni and Jamaican coffees are even better with blueberries.
- Stonefruits (peaches, plums and apricots) – Fresh or baked into sweets, stonefruits are delicious with Tanzanian and Haitian coffees.
- Tarts – Fruit tarts are exceptional with medium-to-dark roast Brazilians and Costa Ricans.
Chocolate and coffee is a long-standing favourite amongst food-and-drink pairings. Espresso drinks and lattes make perfect sense with chocolates and all chocolaty desserts.
- Brownies – Full-bodied coffees from Indonesia or Guatemala pair beautifully with dark chocolate brownies.
- Chocolate Cake – Chocolate cake is great with most medium- or dark-roast coffees, but is especially great with chocolaty Guatemalans. Chocolate mousse cake is delicious with most Arabica coffees. Vanilla-bean-iced chocolate cupcakes are wonderful with Colombian coffee.
- Chocolate-Dipped Fruit – Chocolate-dipped fruit is good with most African coffees. Tart chocolate-covered cherries are great with citrusy Ethiopian Sidamo in particular.
- Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is ideally paired with Indonesian, Brazilian, Ethiopian, Guatemalan and dark roast coffees.
- Milk Chocolate – It’s hard not to pair milk chocolate with all types of coffee, but Colombian, Kenyan, Sumatran, Yemeni, Ethiopian and Kona work best.
- White Chocolate – White chocolate’s milder flavour pairs better with Colombian, Costa Rican and Yemeni coffees.
What would Italians do without coffee and biscotti? What would Americans do without doughnuts and coffee? What would Sri Lankans do without their coffee and butter cake? We may never know.
- Cakes – Cake and coffee is a classic pairing. Carrot cake is fantastic with Colombian coffee. Chocolate cake pairings are listed above under ‘Chocolate Pairings’. The possibilities are endless!
- Caramel Desserts – The rich, salty-sweet flavour of caramel works well with Indonesian and Guatemalan coffees.
- Cinnamon Buns – The caramel and chocolate notes in Colombian and Guatemalan coffees are a natural fit for cinnamon buns.
- Coffee Cake – Danishes and coffee cakes pair well with most coffees, but light- or medium-roast Hawaiian and Nicaraguan coffees are particularly good.
- Doughnuts – Different types of doughnuts pair well with different coffees. Many coffee-and-doughnut lovers swear by milk and sugar with pretty much any type of coffee and any type of doughnut. Smooth, sweet Costa Rican coffee is especially well suited to pairing with doughnuts.
- Muffins – Like doughnuts, most muffins work with most coffees. Some find that Costa Rican and Mexican coffees are especially good with muffins.
- Scones – They’re not just for tea! Fruit scones are great with winey coffees from Yemen, Kenya and Haiti. Unflavoured scones are good with Costa Ricans and maple raisin scones are perfect for Kona or Nicaraguan coffee. Citrus scones are great with Mexican and Ethiopian coffees.
- Sweet Breads – Banana nut bread is great with Costa Rican, Kenyan or Kona coffee, and pumpkin bread with nuts is incredible with Colombian or Costa Rican coffee. They’re all great with Espresso con Panna.
The light, balanced flavour of most Central American coffees is ideal for many breakfast foods, but here are a few breakfast coffee pairings that go beyond the basics.
- Crepes – Pair savoury crepes (those with ingredients like vegetables, herbs, cheese and meats) with bold Pacific Island coffees. Pair Nutella or chocolate crepes with Colombian coffee. Berry crepes are great with Kenyan or Haitian coffees. They’re all also easily paired with espresso and espresso-based drinks.
- Eggs and bacon/sausage – This American-style breakfast is great with medium-roast Costa Rican coffee.
- Omelettes with Mushrooms and Italian Herbs – Java, Sumatra and Indonesian coffee can handle the full flavours of savoury brunch foods like omelettes.
- Oatmeal – Light-roast Kona or Nicaraguan coffee is ideal with oatmeal.
- Pancakes with Maple Syrup – Kona and Nicaraguan coffee complement the maple and the pastry flavours of this classic breakfast food.
- Quiche – The full, savoury flavours of many Pacific Island coffees is great with quiche.
- Wheat Toast – Light- or medium-roast Costa Rican, Colombian, Guatemalan and Brazilian coffees are great with simple, grainy breakfasts, such as toast or cereal.
*Info for coffee pairings have been compiled from various coffee blogs including coffeetea.about.com