Everyone knows about wine and food pairings. And you may even be aware of beer dinners that match specific ales and lagers with appropriate foods. Heck, there’s even a dinner coming up with the food paired (and in some cases prepared) with vodka. But here’s a new twist: coffee and dessert pairings.
That was the premise of a tasting I had recently at the Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Company in Baldwin Park. It was the Orlando-based company’s way of announcing its new filtered coffee program that will be part of a planned remodeling of all the company owned Barnie’s coffee shops. The process — which is not new but is new to the Barnie’s operation — involves slowly pouring boiled water over grounds in a paper filter into a small carafe. Actually, Barnie’s is calling it the “pour over” coffee; you can’t get much more straightforward than that. According to Anne Valdez, vice president of coffee and tea (now there’s a title for you), who conducted the tasting for me, it’s a technique that takes a lot of training to perfect. But the result, she says, is a more robust cup of coffee.
I’ve seen this in other places, most notably at Monmouth Coffee, a favorite place for a cuppa in London. There the baristas filter the coffee directly into the customer’s cup; at Barnie’s, Valdez brewed — I’m not sure that word qualifies
here, but let’s use it anyway — the coffee into a small carafe that held a more than a usual cup. The secret to this process, says Valdez, is to pre-wet the filter before adding the grounds. That way when the water is poured over the grounds it isn’t squandered by moistening the filter. Then, when pouring the water, it’s key to keep moving the stream slowly around the grounds so as not to cause any bubbling or allowing the water to burrow into the grounds. You want to make sure you get an even amount of water over all the grounds.
This is not for people in a hurry or for those who need a cup of coffee now. I mean NOW! This is the opposite of instant coffee. It’s about a four minute process from taking the order, grinding the beans (just a tad coarser than espresso), pre-wetting the filter, pouring the water and letting it all drip. That last part itself is 2 ½ to 3 minutes. Doesn’t sound like a long time, but for the first cup in the morning it’s an eternity.
Barnie’s is betting lots of people will be willing to wait a few more minutes for what Valdez avers is a better cup of coffee. (And no, I didn’t ask Valdez if she’s related to the guy with the donkey in the coffee commercials; some things are just too lame even for me.)
To demonstrate the new process, Valdez prepared a number of coffees for me and paired them desserts selected from the pastry list of Citrus restaurant. With the Java Kalisat, which is actually from the Indonesian island of Java and so comes by the name legitimately, she offered a pumpkin pie. The Galapagos peaberry, which is described as the sauvignon blanc of coffee, presumably for its citrusy notes and not because it should be served chilled, was paired with apple cobbler. The Viennese blend was matched with chocolate cup cake and a pecan pie was presented with the French vanilla.
The coffee and dessert pairings were a cute gimmick, and I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. After all, how many people like to end a great meal with a good cup of coffee and dessert? Instructing people on how to appreciate the flavor components of each and to contemplate the right match is an intriguing notion. But frankly I didn’t get it. I liked the coffees very much — and for the record, the filter drip system does produce a terrific cup of coffee, though I’m more of the give me my coffee NOW type. And I thought the desserts brought over by Ashley Brown of Citrus were all very good, too. But there was never an epiphanal moment such as sometimes happens when you taste the right wine with the appropriate food. In fact, if anything the sweets tended to cancel out the flavor components I had tasted in the coffees.
But I’m fine with that. For me, a good cup of coffee is all I really need for dessert.
Want to try the coffee for yourself? Just stop by any of the company owned Barnies, such as the one on Park Avenue in Winter Park or in Baldwin Park near the Publix. During all business hours the coffee monger is offering free samples of the pour overs. It’s a way to introduce them to the area — and a way to let the baristas practice the technique, too, so be patient. Maybe order a cup of conventional coffee while you wait.