Meat your match

Coffee isn’t alone in riding a new wave of popularity – the British cured meat industry has also experienced a rebirth. But could the two work together? Ed Smith puts them to the test. Photo by Gary Smith

There are many well-rehearsed matches within and between the worlds of food and drink. Be they generic high-level advice such as “wine works with cheese” or more specific, such as “try aged Comté and vin jaune” (really, do), these days few pairings truly surprise. We don’t, however, read much about whether coffee and charcuterie get along.

ou might think that’s because the two aren’t natural bedfellows, one being traditionally bitter and overwhelming and the other often fatty and either subtle or aggressively smoked or spiced. Yet the modern, lighter roasts of coffee provide an opportunity to appreciate the nuances of flavour that can extracted, while tasting notes such as stone fruits, red berries and honeycomb hint at the possibility that coffee and cured meats could coexist.

In fact, it’s not such an unlikely proposition. Most breakfasts in Scandinavia and Germany include the two products, so surely they can’t repel each other. More anecdotally, the rise of third-wave coffee has coincided with the growth over the past five to 10 years of a new British curing tradition. So it seems the time is ripe to put the two together.

We brewed 20 different beans to taste with three very different products available from British cured meat specialists Cannon & Cannon (cannonandcannon.com).Without doubt, a handful of the coffees clashed with or dominated the meat. But a number of brews were perfectly fine. Moreover, we were able to find good matches of flavour profiles and mouthfeel, and on multiple occasions found the two not only worked well together but actually complemented and enhanced the sweetness or depth of each other. Read on to discover our best matches.

 

Round Hill Roastery Iyenga AB (Tanzania) & Native Breeds nape

Meat

Nape is the intensely flavoured, marbled muscle at the base of a pig’s neck, known as coppa in Italy. This is a sweet, long-flavoured aged pork with a notable lactic tang.

Coffee

A mature coffee with blood orange zest bitterness and a touch of tropical fruit sweetness.

The pairing

This is a quality match – the zestiness of the coffee cuts through the powerful pork and rich, slightly fatty mouthfeel. Grown-up.

 

Extract Coffee Roasters Muhara Natural (Rwanda) & Cobble Lane Cured air-dried beef

Meat

A bresaola-style meat with a hint of herbs including oregano and rosemary, and the tang of balsamic vinegar in the cure.

Coffee

A light roast with hint of black tea, but aromatic too, with mellow baked plum and mulling spices.

The pairing

The meat has a light, aged beef funk but there’s also a tang to it, which is complemented by the mellow, mildly acidic coffee. Good pals – no fighting.

 

Clifton Coffee Burtukaana Natural (Ethiopia) & Trealy Farm blood, chocolate and red wine salami

Meat

A fairly extraordinary cured and air-dried pork sausage flavoured with pig’s blood, 100% cacao and red wine. There’s loads happening here, finishing with a ferrous taste in the mouth. Surely nothing could fit with that…

Coffee

Like the meat, there’s lots going on: tropical fruit, papaya, black cherries and red berries.

The pairing

Surprisingly, the complex acidity of the coffee works incredibly well, both calming the meat and bringing out a sweetness, truly enhancing the eating experience.