Coffee+Pastry Pairing with Companion Bakeshop, Part 1: Sweet Pastries

Erin, one of the owners of Companion Bakeshop, approached me with a novel idea; pairing coffee/cappaccinos with pastries like wine and cheese. I thought it was just brilliant, coffee shops and specialty bakeries are becoming such mainstream culinary staples, why shouldn’t we take pairing seriously? I bounced the idea around and got a lot of positive feed back. Not only is it a great way to give back to the coffee community but a good way to get some buzz for a great bakeshop and a solid coffee roasting company.

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I walked in one morning and met with two of Compaion’s excellent baristas, Andy and Ryan. We briefly discussed strategy and started brewing up some fresh pour overs. Of course, we used Lulu’s beans for our caps and coffees, Sidama ECX for both. All of us are coffee nerds, so the three of us making coffee together was fun enough. Then, like a pack of wolves, we descended on the pastry case, Andy and Ryan choosing what they thought best represented the specialties of their shop. When we sat down to our pasty Smörgåsbord at the end of the companion long table, we all had this kind of “what did we just get ourselves into?”mixed with “this is going to be so amazing” look on our faces.

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After about an hour of chatting, tasting, and seriously critiquing each coffee/cap and pasty pairing, we found that most of our predictions were right with a few curve balls. We took very official notes (see picture) and here are the results.

  • Buckwheat Scone: We thought the acidity of the coffee mixed with the starchiness of the scone was a good combination. The coffee definitely gives your pallet a little moister, which is a good balance to the dryness. The bite of the coffee also went very well with the sweet tangyness of the berries.            Winner:Coffee
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  • Chocolate Seasalt Cookie: If you haven’t had one of these yet, go down to the store tomorrow and buy 6 for you and yours. We split one cookie amongs the three of us and it still killed us. The saltiness of the cookie paired very well with the creaminess of the cap where as the watery coffee actually detracted from it. The coffee was also a bit harsh with the rich chocolate.            Winner: Cap
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  • Lemon Bar: This is something unique since you may not find it in every coffee shop, but lend it to Companion to make another oustanding pastry. This one was a real toss up; all three of us disagreed. While some of us thought the cap contrasted with the creamyness of the crust too much, others thought it went well. Since coffee was very smooth, the lemon bar was just moist enough to pair well with either. For me, I thought the lemon flavoring and the coffee flavor was key.          Winner: Both
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  • Chocolate Croissant: A solid choice for any coffee shop, this one was pretty much a no brainer. The creamy cap and the butter of the crossaint were just too much richness while the acidity of the coffee actually canceled out the richness very well. This also may  have been because we were 4 pastries deep and all feeling a little sugar high.               Winner: Coffee
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  •  Brownie: I could not believe how moist and rich this thing was. At this point, customers had taken notice of our little party and joined in the tasting. Though the three of us predicted that the brownie was going to go well with the coffee, we were actually extremely impressed with how well the milk in the cap went with the creamy smooth chocolate. The moosey texture complimented the coffee since it offered a contrast, so we were all pretty happy with either choice. Most customers seemed to agree that the cap went a little better, but it was pretty even between the three of us.                    Winner: Cap
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  • Pear Pie: Tis the season of pie. By now we were all feeling about 10 lbs heavier and could barely look this thing in the face. But, Companion never dissappoints and we had a job to do. You readers were depending on us, pioneers in the field of coffee/pastry pairing. The creamy whip went super well with the coffee, the pasty crust was perfectly balanced by the coffee, but the pear filling flavor was totally swept by the cap. This one really could have gone either way because of all the unique flavors mixing together.                 Winner: Both
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When we finished, we all looked at each other and declared that we needed a few weeks before we could do anything like this again. I thought I might not be able to ever look pastries in the face again, but we all know that I will be at Companion Tuesday morning, ready for more. At the conclusion of our meal, I was satisfied but extremely full. I could feel the rich deliciousness of that banquet for the rest of the day. Generally, creamy, milky caps complimented everything quite well, but it was the unique pairing of the straight coffee and pastries that created the best contrasts and combinations. Generally, we thought the coffee would go best with the pastries since by the end, none of us finished our caps.
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Funny how this turned out to be well balanced in every category. It was unintentional, but if you want to look at this as an exact science you are free to review at our very professional score napkin (see pic). So what do these pairings mean for you? Get inspired, go try some of these combinations for yourself and see what you think. Follow some of our suggestions, happy eating!!
Coming soon, Part II will feature savory pastries! Stay tuned as we will announce when the next pairing will be held at Companion Bakeshop in Santa Cruz!
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