The Blend

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Blog

croissant and coffee pairing

What to Pair With Your Favorite Cup of Coffee


What to Pair With Your Favorite Cup of Coffee

Sommeliers study the complex craft of winemaking for years to become certified, but coffee vendors vary widely from a freshly-trained barista to our Coffee Master, Jay Isais, who sources our 100% Specialty Grade Arabica beans from premiere single-origin growing regions around the world. 


No matter where you are on your coffee-tasting or coffee-making journey you should know the basics of pairing food with coffee for the most enjoyable and sensational taste experiences. Want to learn how to pair coffee with food? You’ve come to the right place!

Discover the Taste of Your Coffee


Before we highlight specific examples of food pairings let’s introduce you to a powerful visual aid that can help you make your own: the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel. You can buy the official wheel at the Speciality Coffee Association website if you have money to burn, or you can access a free interactive version at Not Bad Coffee. Too many descriptors? Check out this simplified flavor wheel that includes common tastes and aromas separated into six categories.

Once you identify the main notes in your coffee you have the information you need to pair a salty or sweet food item. Read our blog to learn how to identify the tastes in your coffee. Here’s the simplified version:

During the grinding and brewing process actively try to name the scents you smell. By sitting with the aroma of the coffee you can identify main categories like floral, nutty, or fruity fragrances. Keep the cup of piping coffee near your nose for a measure of time before taking your first sip. The second step is tasting, where you get more specific. Slurp the coffee and allow it to coat your tongue so you can detect the nuances of the taste ranging anywhere from peach to nutmeg.


What Foods Go Well With Coffee?


When choosing healthy snacks to pair with coffee there are two equally plausible approaches — choose food that complements and brings out the flavors of your coffee, or choose food that contrasts the tastes of the coffee without overpowering them.

There are no hard and fast rules. This isn’t a chemistry class! We will provide basic recommendations below, but palates range so drastically that you’re better off experimenting with various roasts, pastries, and fruits to find your favorite combination.


What Fruits and Snacks Go Well With Coffee?


Fruits or fruit-based foods are a potentially lighter, healthier option that also provides the perfect pop of citric-sweet flavor. Blueberries and strawberries (really, any berries) go well with Jamaican and Kenyan coffees. For Haitian coffees lean toward the stone fruits: plums, peaches, or apricots. For dark-roasted coffees from Brazil or Costa Rica try a fruit tart.

Milk coffees and espressos tend to pair well with chocolate, whether delicate or rich. Munch on a dark chocolate brownie with a full-bodied coffee, or combine tastes by drinking an African coffee with chocolate-dipped fruit. To go for a milder type of sweet treat pair white chocolate with Costa Rican and Colombian coffees.

Prefer pastries? Get fancy by pairing a fruit scone with a winey coffee. Sweetbreads pair excellently with many coffees, including Kenyan, Costa Rican, and Kona coffees. Biscotti is one of the most enduring coffee food pairings — if you get a full-flavored biscotti match it with an espresso. 


What Should I Pair With Coffee at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®?


Fruits and savory baked goods are always great options, as are cheeses. It all comes down to the coffee itself. Here are some quick examples from our Reserve Line:


  • Our smooth, full-bodied Costa Rica La Minita coffee pairs well with walnut and pear flavors. Try a cup with our Vegan Banana Walnut Loaf to see how the tastes interact.

  • Our delicate and sweet 100% Kona coffee is best with rich berry flavors. When you visit The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® pair a cup with a Blueberry Muffin.

  • Our rare, spicily aromatic Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee pairs well with calming, sweet flavors of peach or strawberry. Try it with the dependable Fruit and Cheese Box to discover your ideal taste combination.


We know all this talk of sweets, pastries, and delectable coffee has your mouth-watering — stop by The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® in your area today to start the trial-and-error process of pairing the perfect food with every type of coffee you crave.