How Do Different Coffees Affect Certain Food?

by Ralph Menezes //

You've heard all there is about wine and food pairing. In our latest guest blog, traveler and specialty coffee writer, Melanie Böhme takes us on a slightly different tour of the food-pairing world, with her specialty-coffee-pairing experiences in recent years and her thoughts on the importance of the right coffee glassware.

Since the very beginning of my interest in specialty coffee, I’ve always fell for all those wonderful aromas and flavors in different coffees and how they pair with certain foods. I not only try-tasted multiple coffee origins and varieties, but also tried to find the perfect match mainly sweet stuff in the early years – to go with my coffee pick. Later, along with several experiences at specialty coffee shops around the world and more coffee & food pairings for my palate, I asked myself, how do certain coffees affect food and is it even possible to make a 3-course meal served not with wine, but with coffee?

Chemex

Specialty coffee came into my life quite late. It’s not even 5 years ago that I’ve had my first filter coffee brewed with the V60 or Chemex. Diving deep into the subject, buying coffee gear and bringing coffees back from my travels as a souvenir brought me to all those wonderful coffee people that are spread throughout the world. Enjoying a cup especially shared with these like-minded other coffee fans over some great conversation is what hooked me over the past years and led me to start working on my own eventually, writing, photographing and talking about coffee.

Inspired by coffee people around the world

After moving to Berlin in early 2017 and getting to know more coffee people & entrepreneurs, my mind started spinning around even more crazy coffee related ideas & projects. One of these projects had been parked on my bucket list of things to try for several years now – pairing coffee with food.

One epiphany experience had been my attendance at a coffee & food-pairing event held by specialty café Scandinavian Embassy of Amsterdam during Amsterdam Coffee Festival a couple years ago. I really admire all of the efforts of the Embassy, when it comes to pairing coffee with certain food or their very own experiments of using coffee as an ingredient. Lately I stumbled over one of their Instagram stories- infusing mushrooms with coffee… very inspiring!

Meeting Chef Michael Hoffmann over here in Berlin then, brought me back to my own idea. It didn’t take long for me to infect him with that bug – pairing coffee with food -, too. It became clear to us what we wanted to do: Host a Pop-Up Dinner during Berlin Coffee Festival with a 3-course-meal, served not with wine, but with coffee to go with each course.

Coffee meets Power Food at Berlin Coffee Festival 2017

For our Pop-Up Dinner ‘Coffee meets Power Food’ we teamed up with Berlin local coffee companies Coffee Circle and Philosoffee who supported us not only with their know-how, but also with their coffees. Our goal for the Pop-Up Dinner was to introduce our guests to a new coffee experience while try-tasting different coffees from around the world that had been carefully selected for each of the courses we served during the Pop-Up Dinner.

Not only because my personal favorite of filter brewing gear is the Chemex, but also because the Chemex in my opinion allows more of those wonderful fine flavor notes to shine through in each coffee, we decided to brew the coffees used for each course with this brewing method.

Salmon and chemex

Apart from serving an aperitif to welcome our guests and a coffee cocktail to end this culinary journey with cold brew coffees as the base, we offered three very different coffees, all filter roasts, in three different shaped glasses. Like wine, we chose glasses that highlight the aroma and flavor notes in our coffees: We used a white wine glass with and without a stem, as well as a cocktail tumbler. Having a dedicated set of coffee glassware [read KRUVE EQ] would have taken this experience to the next level.

Coffees and their unique characters

Before we actually decided on which coffees to use for the glasses, we did a cupping of all the different filter coffees Coffee Circle offered at that time. We cupped about 8 different origins to find the perfect match for each of the recipes of the three courses Michael at that time already had put together – a culinary journey through South America, East Asia and the modern cuisine.

The process of finding the right coffee for each course looked like the following. As an example I’ll share those steps for the main course and the dessert.

Michael created the recipes and put the ingredients together by including local (if available) and organic produce as well as giving coffee a stage, too, as an ingredient.

  • Main course: Salmon marinated in coffee & tossed in black sesame, pea puree, udon noodles, pak-choi, Miso jus.
  • Dessert: Chocolate coffee mousse from silk tofu, coconut ice cream, beets sherbet, berries, toasted hemp seeds, beets chips.
Coffee meets power
There are basically two different ways of finding a good pairing for a certain coffee:
  1. Contrasting, or
  2. Mirroring, certain flavors in coffee.
While Contrasting works to balance out flavors, Mirroring works on the principle of flavor continuity, to further highlight a key flavor or taste present in a food.

For our Pop-Up Dinner we used both approaches- Contrasting for the main course and Mirroring for the Dessert.

While Contrasting works to balance out flavors, Mirroring works on the principle of flavor continuity, to further highlight a key flavor or taste present in a food.

While cupping the coffees we always had the recipes and their ingredients in mind. Since the main course reflected unique flavors of the East Asian cuisine with the Udon, Pak-choi and Miso jus, we immediately thought of a light coffee that reminded us of Black Tea such as an Earl Grey that compliments those characteristic flavors. Hence we went for the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe with its complex fruit notes and tea-like character to balance out the flavor of the main course.

coffee meets power_dessert

For our dessert we picked up the berries having a rather minor role apart from the otherwise very bold flavors of the chocolate coffee mousse and the coconut ice cream in the recipe and chose a very fruity coffee with notes of currants and rhubarb and a berry-like acidity from Kenya to go with the dessert for our guests.

The last part of this process was about finding the perfect glassware that highlighted not only the flavor notes of our coffees, but also reflected the creative process of both creating the recipe and sourcing healthy local ingredients, but also of finding the perfect match for our coffee & food pairing to serve for our guests during that unique evening. 

The white wine glasses worked really well with each of the courses: the white wine glass with a long stem for the main course and the one without the stem, a so-called ‘drinking glass’, for the dessert.

Our goal for the pairing was to bring out the best of the coffees as well as the pairing. The white wine glasses supported us in that goal of highlighting not only the unique character of the coffees we used, but also the sensual perception while drinking. The KRUVE EQ line of glassware would be the perfect complement to our coffee pairing experience, and we cannot wait to get our hands on the first set of EQ glassware, to bring about a more refreshed and refined feel to our coffee pairing projects.


About Melanie Böhme

Melanie, or Mel, is an avid specialty coffee blogger and traveller who likes exploring the coffee scene the world over. Mel's travels' have evolved from mere touristy sightseeing trips to a more customized itinerary comprising the best specialty coffee shops, cafes, roasteries and origin trips the world over. Catch Mel's blog here, in addition to her adventurous Instagram profile.

1 comment

  • Wow, how interesting! Thanks for the great article and insights into this topic!

    I love the approach with the different glasses, I never thought of that. I wish cafés would do coffee and food pairing more often, but also especially for breakfast because I can’t fall asleep if I drink so much coffee in the evening! But now I will try more often myself, to think of which pastry I order, depending on which coffee I order at café, and look if I can identify them with each other in mirroring or contrasting ways :)

    Anouk

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