With many artisan coffee shops staffed by earnest bearded blokes extolling the virtues of their ‘crema’ popping up all over the place, coffee’s turning into a very serious business. And if you needed any more assurance that ‘java is the new wine’, look no further than the latest trend for food and coffee matching.
Just like you’d match a hearty Argentinian red with a juicy steak, so too can you match your coffee with your Stilton. Stilton? Yes, you read that right.
Because as we learned at a Starbucks master class, coffee matching’s not just about biscuits, we’re talking all kinds of food. And now that the festive season is most definitely with us, it’s just the time to experiment over long lunches and boozy dinners. But before you learn to match your coffee to your food, you need to know how to taste it properly.
First off, cup your hand around the top of the mug to stop air escaping and take some deep sniffs. Some coffee has a stronger richer smell, some’s light on the nostrils. Then slurp your coffee with as much gusto as you can manage. Getting lots of air in and getting the coffee all over the tongue means you can taste the different elements properly on the different taste receptors in your mouth. The sides and tip of your tongue will pick up acidity, flavours like cocoa, citrus or berry will register in different parts of your mouth and you should notice a difference between light-bodied coffees that flow over the tongue with a clean finish compared with full-bodied coffees that are heavier and have lingering flavours.
Now, to kick off a day of coffee-matched festive indulgence, start with pastries or a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon.
To bring out the creaminess of the cheese and cut the oiliness of the salmon, Starbucks’ London Coffee Ambassador Liz Booker recommends a well-balanced Latin American coffee that has complex herbal notes. If you choose a croissant, you might want to select a coffee with a higher acidity to cut the butteriness.
Moving on through your festive day, a mince pie’s likely to be on the menu at some point. And for this kind of rich fruit, spice and buttery pastry combo, you’ll need a full bodied dark roast coffee to cut through the intense flavour. And if you’re having a cheese board, forget the port. You can still enjoy coffee alongside it, good news for people driving. Try a slice of Stilton with a dark full-bodied coffee with low acidity and sweet notes. This will help balance the savoury sweetness of the cheese and bring out its creamy flavours.
Finally for your after-dinner chocolate truffles, go for a full-bodied coffee made with Indonesian beans that has a low acidity and a darker roast. Starbucks’ Caffe Verona – romantically named after the city where Romeo and Juliet met and fell in love because everyone loves it so much – was a truly delicious match with the chocolate truffle we tasted.
Velvety and smooth, the whole experience was Christmas in a slurp!
Pick up a packet of Starbucks coffee at your local supermarket and start experimenting.