When you're trying to figure out a coffee and dessert pairing, know that there's really no "wrong" answer; in the end, what matters most are the flavors that you enjoy.
One approach is to identify a specific flavor note in your dessert and pair it with a coffee that accentuates or echoes that same flavor element. Or, if you're serving a really rich and heavy dessert, or a really sweet dessert, you might want to pair it with a coffee that's bright and sparkly to reset your palate and get it ready for the next, tasty bite!
In order to expertly pair coffee and desserts, you'll need a basic understanding of the three main coffee growing regions and the flavor characteristics specific to coffee grown in those areas.
In these island regions, rich volcanic soil and a tropical climate combine with 300 years of tradition to produce excellent coffee. Coffees from here are typically described as woodsy, nutty, and earthy with a thick, syrupy body.
Coffee and dessert pairing tips: Try pairing coffees from this region with lighter desserts, such as a fruit sorbet or fruit and custard tarts to provide a nice contrast. I once paired a Sumatra coffee with pumpkin pie, and found that the coffee brought out the pie's nutmeg spice notes. Delicious!
As the birthplace of coffee, East Africa has the altitude, soil, and climate for producing outstanding coffee that balance good body and fine acidity. Coffee from East Africa and Yemen are known for distinctive aromas of flowers and fruit and complex flavors ranging from citrusy to winy.
Coffee and dessert pairing tips: Pair chocolate covered strawberries, lemon bars, or Key Lime pies with a coffee from Africa to highlight the citrus notes. Poached pears in red wine match nicely with the distinctive, winy flavors from coffees of the Yemeni peninsula.
The mountains of this coffee growing region yield some of the sweetest, spiciest coffees grown anywhere in the world. These coffees offer highly concentrated flavors with a hint of citrus undertones.
Coffee and dessert pairing notes: Because of the bright acidity inherent in these coffees, they pair best with rich, decadent and sweet desserts like cheesecake, chocolate mousse, or dulce de leche anything!
No matter what coffee you pair your holiday desserts with, remember to have fun and enjoy your company!
Check out this groovy video that shows how to make a fantastic cup of coffee from start to finish. The finished product is so gorgeous, this video should probably be classified as erotica for coffee heads!
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