Perfect match: Why coffee could be better served with desserts not after

By Emma Eversham contact

- Last updated on GMT

Best coffee and dessert pairings
Coffee being served with dessert instead of after it could soon be a practice seen in more restaurants due to work being carried out by a top pastry chef and a coffee supplier to find the perfect coffee and dessert matches.

Pastry chef Sarah Hartnett has been working with UCC Coffee to better understand how different coffees can be matched with a range of chocolate-based desserts and cakes.

Speaking to BigHospitality at The Restaurant Show earlier this week, Hartnett, formerly of Sheraton Park Lane and Claridge’s, said she had been surprised by some of the findings from her experiments in the kitchen with certain ingredients helping to bring out different characteristics of coffee while others ‘did neither element any favours’.

“Since working with UCC Coffee and its extensive range of coffees, I have learnt that flavour profiling is as complex as it is with chocolate and wine – each individual origin has very distinct characteristics,” she said.

“Coffee needs to be expertly handled to get the best results, the same way any kitchen uses raw ingredients. It’s been very interesting to work on food and coffee pairings and explore how different the food experience can be when it harmonises with the coffee.”

Top pairings

Hartnett found that desserts and cakes using dried fruit can work better with a full-flavoured coffee boasting floral notes, such as UCC’s ThreeSixty Ethiopian Yirgacheffe. The beverage also needs to be served black to appreciate the fruit flavours in the cake. 

For chocolate-based desserts Hartnett found the ThreeSixty Cuban Cumanayagua with its roasted flavour and balanced acidity a better match. This coffee is best served white to match with the chocolate she found. 

Interestingly, the pastry chef also discovered that when a coffee displays characteristics of an ingredient, it doesn’t necessarily match well with it.  A coffee with gingerbread notes was ‘terrible’ with gingerbread itself, Hartnett said.  

“The flavour just cancelled it out and it tasted terrible,” she said.

Hartnett and UCC plan to share their findings in a two-hour workshop at Artisan Coffee School in Ealing next month.

Phil Smith, head of category and insight at UCC Coffee UK & Ireland said with coffee sales doubling in the UK over the last six years it was a key profit driver for hospitality operators.

“Done right, coffee can be a high GP sales opportunity for restaurants. We’re working with Sarah as she’s at the top of her game and really understands how products can work well together,” he said. 

For more information about the workshop email Nicole.hartnell@ucc-coffee.co.uk​.

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