Martin and Lewis. Peas and carrots. Dick and Jane. Flotsam and jetsam. Salt and pepper. Lewis and Clark. Sweet and sour. Stars and Stripes. COFFEE AND DESSERT! Surely, coffee and dessert deserves a place among the greatest pairings in life. Indeed, for coffee lovers, dessert without coffee is like half a story, like Bert without Ernie, Kirk without Spock, obsessive without well, you get the idea. The first rule of pairing coffee with dessert is there are no rules. How can there be rules? Its dessert. Try everything. There are not even rules about pairing specific coffees with specific desserts. What follows then are some utterly subjective guidelines I use when I am responsible for pairing coffees and desserts for guests or groups.
Generally, I look for flavors that complement one another and sometimes that means outright contrast. I try to avoid "piling on," serving a coffee with distinct chocolate notes along with a chocolate dessert, for example. But thats just me. Speaking of chocolate, if that is dessert then Im probably going to look to east Africa for the coffee. If were having dense chocolate like fudge or confections, I like something bright and fruity that will cut through the heavy chocolate. Right now, we have two great choices, our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and our Kenya Kiangoi. And if you really want to get crazy about it, chose the more floral Ethiopian if the chocolate includes nuts, for contrast, and Kenya if there are no nuts. If Im serving a lighter chocolate, like cake, Im going back to Ethiopia, but this time to the Harar region because I still want fruity but I dont need as bright a citrus to cut through the chocolate. Another great choice for light and fluffy chocolate desserts is our Colombia Estrella Del Sur.
If, on the other hand, my dessert already has plenty fruit and citrus all on it own, like my personal favorite, key lime pie, then coffee with hints of chocolate can be good, but Im more interested in an emphasis body rather than brightness or acidity. My first choice is our Dancing Goats Blend followed closely by our Sumatra Mandheling. Somewhere in the middle are what I think of a savory desserts, like many holiday pies. For me this includes some fruit pies that are more about the spices and savory flavors than fruit. This one is easy.
Think about the pie. Now think about putting ice cream on the pie. What kind of ice cream is it? Yes, bring on the coffees with hints of chocolate, caramel, vanilla, rum raisin. If its time for pie its time for our French Roast or Organic Whirling Dervish Blend or our Mexico Sierra Mixteca. For that luscious rum raisin, go with our Guatemala Antiqua from Finca El Valle. So there you have it, a short and sweet guide to paring coffee and dessert. But like I say, there are no rules. Eat all the dessert. Drink all the coffee.