4 ways to pair coffee with food

Coffee and cupcake with raisins

Most everyone knows about the check-boosting, customer-pleasing benefits of food and wine (or beer) pairings.

But pairing food with coffee is relatively unchartered territory—and a potential growth area for bakery cafes, fine-dining establishments and everything in between.

“Suggestive selling is a big thing for a reason,” says Kate Blackman of Messenger Coffee, a roaster in Kansas City, Kan. “And it’s not something independent cafes have latched on to.”

Consumers at bakeries and coffee cafes, for instance, report that special offers and coupons or discounts are visit drivers. Some 59% say special offers would encourage them to visit a coffee cafe and 55% say coupons or discounts would motivate them to go to bakery cafes, according to Technomic’s 2016 Bakery & Coffee Cafe Consumer Trend Report.

So, bundling curated pairings of coffee and food could very likely drive sales.

Blackman is a licensed Q Grader who completed a lengthy training course to become certified to judge coffee quality. She has17 years of experience in the coffee industry and offered tips on pairing coffee with food—specifically breakfast items and desserts.

1. Mirror flavors

One way to approach coffee pairings is by mirroring the flavors of the food. Breakfast pastries often have fruit, chocolate or nut profiles, for example. So, your coffee choice could share the same notes. Say, an almond croissant with an almond-y Costa Rican coffee. A savory breakfast burrito or sandwich would complement the savory roasts of Sumatra or Papua New Guinea coffees.

2. Focus on acidity

Different roasts highlight different types of acidity, be it through citrus notes, stone fruit or the malic acidity of apples and pears. Choose foods that complement these acidity types. Restaurant desserts provide many coffee pairing opportunities because they’re typically made up of multiple components. “Use your roaster like a sommelier,” she says. “Get them to look at your menu and help make those pairings.”

3. Seek out opposite flavors

There are few rules when it comes to pairing coffee with food. Mirroring is one approach. But operators can also take the opposite tactic and look at flavors that complement each other while being different. A coffee with subtle hints of blueberry might go nicely with a lemon breakfast pastry or composed lemon dessert.

4. Explore food families

Nuts, for example, are a broad category with many different types. A coffee with pecan notes would likely pair well with a dessert or breakfast pastry with other types of nuts.

Coffee and food pairings work best, Blackman says, when dealing with single-origin roasts. They allow the coffee’s flavors to really shine. In any case, there is much growth potential in pairing quality coffee and food, she says.

This post is sponsored by FETCO


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