If We Were Having Coffee…

…I would first tell you that it’s been a while since I’ve published anything outside of a Monday, then I would take you to a gas chromatograph because you’re pairing it wrong. This is probably why I don’t have too many friends.

Let me explain (the gas chromatograph part, not the friends part): lately I’ve been thinking about food pairings with coffee, what with all of the coffee I’ve been drinking. To be on the safe side, I switched to darker roasts, which is easier on the stomach as it contains more of the chemical compounds that play well with stomach acid. Of course, with bolder flavor comes the inevitable question: what can I have with this coffee that won’t be fighting for flavor?

Food pairing is a complex, scientific process that explains why certain foods tend to work well with each other; it’s likely they may have some explanations as why foods don’t. Not only is art in play here (we’re talking food people here, it’s haute couture), but biology and chemistry play as well. For example, why does orange juice taste horrible after you’ve brushed your teeth? Well, first, you’re supposed to brush your teeth after breakfast, not before, you silly person.

Public Domain (Author: MiraDeShazer)

But in all seriousness, your taste buds are being blocked. See, it’s scientific know-how.

Now, what about when you’re having yourself a coffee and some kind of dessert, and your taste buds aren’t impaired (unless you’ve been impatient and didn’t wait for your coffee to cool down)? How does one know which pairings work best? One, there’s trial and error, but that can get expensive and maybe even gross. Two, you reduce the odds of retching your ill-paired coffee and dessert by going to a gas chromatograph. When it comes to eating, your senses of smell and taste are most likely going to take center stage, so gas chromatography can seek out what you’re smelling based on what’s in it – another word for this is ‘olfactometry‘, or measuring what you’re smelling. If one knows what chemicals are at play that give something aroma and flavor (here’s the biology and chemistry), then one can see what other foods complement those aromas and flavors (and there’s the art). For example, dark coffees at least go well with dark chocolate, and Sumatran, an earthy, herbal roast that I’ve been really into lately, goes well with buttery desserts, cinnamon, sugar, and oatmeal. Except for that last one, it describes either snickerdoodle cookies or most Mexican pastries. It’s the best Asian-Mexican pairing I’ve heard about since I married my wife.

Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain (Author: Dtarazona)

So even though wine pairings are still very much high culture in culinary circles, coffee pairings are catching up. If I had to guess, it’s probably since coffee (even good coffee) is more accessible than wine, and a coffee outing won’t get you pulled over by the local police for driving under the influence. Well, unless you’re overly caffeinated and you’ve all of a sudden decided that you’re a race car driver, but that’s totally on you.

Featured Image Credit: Public Domain (Author: monicore)


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