In Emeran’s Cup

June 8, 2011

People always ask me what kind of coffee I drink, being the owner of a coffee shop and a roaster of beans from around the world. The truth is, I enjoy balanced coffees. I tend towards the middle of the spectrum, rather than the bright or robust ends. Every rule has its exception and mine is Ethiopian coffee, which I think has a great, sweet berry element rather than the lemony element that many bright coffees pull.

I have a confession: I only drink black coffee with food. When I’m drinking coffee on its own through the day, I add a little cream.

In the specialty coffee industry, to really understand coffee, it needs to be tasted black. When I’m cupping, I absolutely drink black.

I also enjoy coffee a little lighter, too, and I think it’s ok to drink coffee with cream.  There is a perception that “real coffee drinkers drink their coffee black,” and my approach is to learn to appreciate the flavor nuances by sampling it black, but if you really enjoy coffee with cream, by all means, enjoy your cup of coffee.

I enjoy my coffee best when it’s paired with different foods. I drink coffee with food the way some people might pair a wine or a beer. That said, coffee doesn’t really pair well with savory or spicy meals.

I was in Cape Town, South Africa after college and visited a cafe with the family I was staying with. They ate their hamburgers and French fries with hot coffee and hot milk. I am more accustomed to drinking a cold, sweet soda with my French fries. It was an odd juxtaposition for an American that I have never gotten over.

On the other side, a really good strong cup of brew goes tremendously well with rich desserts, whereas Ethiopian is breakfastier because it’s lighter and cleaner. Plus, I have yet to have a sweet, berry decaf Ethiopian, and I usually have heavier desserts after dinner when I need decaf. Another confession, I drink a lot of decaf. (Our water processed decaf makes a great cup of coffee.)

A favorite dessert at our house is a chocolate-based ice cream, which pairs really well with a decaf Peru. Peru is a mellower coffee with a mild flavor. If you brew it strong, you pull out the sweet cocoa elements, which pairs nicely with the chocolate ice cream.

Another favorite is a piece of toast with peanut butter and cinnamon sugar. I’ll pair this with a decaf Mexican, which has a nutty richness that enhances the multigrain bread and the peanut butter. The cinnamon blends well with the coffee, too.

Another confession: I don’t like flavoring in coffee; they’re too sweet for my taste. I prefer food to provide the more complex flavor components, rather than a flavor in the coffee.

Coffee is such a personal thing. We all experience it just a little differently. In my mind, the important thing is to find the tastes that make your tongue tingle and then play with those.

Now that I’ve told you my favorites, I’d love to hear yours. What do you drink? Do you have any favorite coffee/food pairings?


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