Coffee and Food: The Yin and the Yang
In my daily work as a coffee cupper, I make an effort NOT to pair coffee with food, milk, perfume, or other contaminants, as I am doing my best to isolate flavors so that I can be consistent and so that I can communicate clearly about my experiences. I love drinking black coffee with no distractions. That said, coffee is an important component of various culinary experiences--could anybody really eat a doughnut without it?
Here are some pairings I've enjoyed quite a bit. They all hinge on the theory that fruit (notes in coffee) should be paired with real fruit, that heavy body goes with heavy desserts, etc.
Sumatra Kokowagayo and Blueberry Pie
This is a coffee so fruity and intense that I've been a little disturbed when adding half and half and trying to drink it with breakfast. I would highly recommend brewing with a pourover, and drinking it black. Allow it to cut through the sweetness and complement the berry flavors of a slice of blueberry pie.
Green Chile Breakfast Burrito with Mexico Chiapas Custepec
This is a pairing I've been promoting for many, many years. Bright and citrusy, but with surprising sweetness, our Mexico (also brewed with a paper filter and served black) is somehow distinct enough to still register as coffee, but subtle enough not to overpower the rather delicate flavor of roast green chile.
French Roast and a Donut (or Beignet. Or fritter.)
Brewed in a French press. Half-and-half added. The heavy, thick body of a creamy, strong cup of darkish-roasted coffee perfectly suits the oily, chewy, yeasty bite of a donut. You'll need something a tiny bit bitter to prevent the ultra-sweetness from being cloying.
Cold Brew Roadrunner Blend (With Milk and Sugar, Over Ice) with Banh Mi
Albuquerque is blessed with a great variety of Vietnamese restaurants and bakeries. Obviously I cannot take credit for this classic, perfect warm-weather combo, but I do think I can improve on the cup quality of the burnt, canned Robusta usually used in a Vietnamese iced coffee. Here the light-medium Roadrunner adds a tangy sweetness which perfectly complements the fresh, savory sandwich.