Guinness and Oysters. Port and Stilton. Pizza and Beer. Life’s greatest food pleasures come in twos.
A match made in (fika)heaven
When successfully paired the overall experience of eating and drinking is much greater than the sum of the individual parts. Every kid knows that milk and cookies are just better together...
Coffee and cake is a classic combination - perfect anytime of day. Think coffee and donuts in the morning or coffee and dessert after dinner.
Here in Sweden, the art of afternoon coffee with cake in cosy surroundings (and ideally in agreeable company) has been elevated to an art form known simply as ‘Fika’.
The world ‘Fika’ serves as both verb and noun (as in “Shall we fika?” or “That was a fantastic fika”). It has even been suggested that Swedish Fika could be a path to world peace...
Where to begin?
But which coffee to drink? And with which cake? Pair unwisely and you’ll end up with a Fika experience that feels flat instead of fabulous.
Let’s look to wine for a second. Wine drinkers have long since figured out that a glass of Sauvignon Blanc can make seafood sing. Or that Cabernet Sauvignon makes a hearty beef stew all the more hearty. Knowledge and practice of coffee pairing has a little catching up to do...
Interest in speciality coffee has increased dramatically in the last couple of years and coffee drinkers have become discovered the myriad of flavours that can be found in a well brewed cup: notes of apricot and jasmine in an Ethiopian Sidamo perhaps, or almond and rosehip in a Colombian Huila. Maybe even tobacco and sweet malt flavours in a Sumatran espresso. There is a distinct delight to sitting down and savouring a cup of coffee that tastes of more than just roasted beans.
Three Guiding Principles
While a great tasting cup of speciality coffee is a beautiful thing on it’s own - pairing it with the perfect pastry elevates the fika experience to new heights. What then, to think of when choosing partners? There are no hard and fast rules but a follow these 3 general guidelines and your fika will be fabulous.
1: Flavour: Contrasting & Mirroring
When it comes to flavours there are two main approaches. The first approach is to pick flavours that will contrast with your coffee. Be careful though, too much contrast could make one element overwhelm the other - but a little bit can bring out the best flavours in both. (Take inspiration from this fika pairing which contrasts the flavours of almond and ginger).
The second approach is mirroring: combine flavours that tell the same story, complementing each other and making each other shine (think of red berries and rhubarb).
Coffee is described as delicate, medium, full or very full-bodied. This ‘mouthfeel’ can vary according to varietal, region, roast level and brew method. Take a sip and let the coffee sit on your tongue for a moment, does the weight and consistency feel delicate medium, or full to you? Velvety or silky? The best approach to pairing coffee according to body is to match like with like. A heavy chocolate caramel brownie will be too overpowering for a delicate bodied Kenyan, but a light carrot cake should be perfect.
Acidity is a highly desirable characteristic in coffee (not to be confused with sourness which is a defect). Acidity is common in high altitude Kenyan and Costa Rican coffees, it gives a cup vibrancy and brightness. At it’s best it’s a sweet-tart sensation that dances on the taste buds and enlivens the taste.
Acidic coffees are best paired with a lighter dessert that itself has some tang to keep the vibrancy going. A simple lemon madeleine is perfect with a lively acidic Ethiopian heirloom coffee.
Get pairing and take your Fika to new heights!
Muttley & Jack’s is a prize winning coffee roastery based in Stockholm. Each month a new coffee is released and paired with a specially created Fika recipe.
The 'Coffee Experience' packages together speciality coffee, travel and education. Discover more about the 'Coffee Experience'.