A cheese may disappoint. It may be dull, it may be naive, it may be over-sophisticated.
Yet it remains cheese, milk's leap toward immortality.

(Clifton Fadiman)

Coffee and cheese, a little-known yet peculiar combination, which however can offer you unforgettable gastronomic experience and delightful satisfaction.

Coffee is mostly considered as morning alarm drink; coffee pause gulp or after-meal digestive. Sometimes coffee is drunk even instead of a meal – for example, a glass of strong coffee frappé full of whipped cream, chocolate chips, vanilla topping, and caramel syrup.

Nowadays, the tendency of tasting new gourmet combinations of all sorts has driven to the re-evaluation of coffee, to be used to upgrade and enrich the impressions of modern cuisine. In early years coffee was taken as a very certain drink, not suitable for combining with others (except wines and alcohol beverages generally). Cheese, in turn, also used to be known as very direct and definite groceries.

As known, cheese is one of the most high-demand art objects for a long time, starting from the Dutch "Golden Age": generations of European artists have made cheese an object of aesthetic admiration. Cheeses of different sizes, colors, and ages laid out in hand-made straw baskets, were painted so deliciously and true-to-life – you may remember Still life with cheese and fruit (1623) by Pieter Claesz, Still life with cheese, artichoke and cherries (1615) and Still Life with Cheeses, Almonds and Pretzels (1615) by Clara Peeters, and Still Life Breakfast (1615) and Still Life with Cheese (1615) by Floris van Dijck.

The king of surrealism, Salvador Dalí had created one of the most famous memes of modern art – melting clock, representing the omnipresence of time and identify its mastery over human beings. The fact is that his inspiration for La persistencia de la memoria (1931) came from the surreal transformation when Dalí saw a piece of soft French Camembert melting in the sun. The offbeat still-life offers up a new world, revealing the strangeness and complexity lurking in the familiar texture. In his diary, Dalí stressed that the melting clock “is nothing else than the tender, extravagant and solitary paranoiac-critical Camembert of time and space”.

One can be very surprised, however, that coffee can be supremely combined with a huge amount of foods, sweet and salty, and, moreover, cheeses, both buttery soft and hard, providing one of the best gourmet matches and mouthful phenomenon. Today the food industry offers an unlimited paradigm for taste conjunction, particularly when it comes to the all-time favourites among dairy products as cheese. Its high-fat content, creamy and full-body structure make cheese ideal for smooth coffee’s acidity and bitterness.

Coffee and cheese have a lot of common features. For example, tastes and flavours of both can be recognized as sweet (like milk sugar, fruit, honey, caramel, or toffy notes), bitter or sour (seawater, Himalayan salt), nutty, buttery and creamy, and even umami taste. The question, however, is how to combine both products to mutually enrich each other? The fact is that complex recipes are not required as both “mix ingredients” are perfectly natural and pure – in fact, Coffee&Cheese is one of the healthiest and valuable combinations that can be served at any time of the day from the breakfast buffet to late-night snacking.

Such hedonistic pairing presupposes a very individual and decadent experience of cuisine exploration. To match coffee with cheese appropriately, it is essential to keep in mind a balance of tastes and aroma. Choose one sort of coffee and focus on finding a correct selection of cheeses with supplementary flavours.

A successful coffee and cheese pair starts by understanding your product. Next time you get coffee, try to determine what does it taste like. Do you feel the pleasure out of flavour? Does the taste remind you of anything? An exquisite marriage of foods creates concordance among different flavours and stresses out extra characteristics, delivering a whole bouquet of heady feelings.

Attentively tasting the different flavours of each piece of cheese and every drop of coffee is a necessary step in experiencing how tastes and textures are changed once the items are combined.

The good pairing will produce a new flavour combination while still accentuating these primary flavours – some pairings keep the traditional regulation – such as compensate acerbity with fat – and some can break the rules a little bit. Many guidelines for coffee matching are still in the air while other well-known algorithms are meant to be bent. Thus, salty crumble cheese and sweet coffee, and astringency for fat can work well if there is not a lot of salt in cheese.

Once you’ve composed a matching shortlist, you’ll be prepared to let your sense of taste guide you through all the world of pairings has got to suggest.

Being a certified fromagère graduated from the Academy of Cheese (UK) I am happy to recommend what sort of cheese you should try having a coffee break. I also can remind that some countries like Sweden and Denmark produce special kinds of cheeses adding coffee powder at maturing, affinage, or grading levels, like Prästost cheese.

But being a human coffee lover, I would say that the best way to get exceptional gourmet experience is to slightly forget some rules. Taste all you want. Literally, combine all you think is balanced. Explore the weird magic in the world cuisines.

If you would like to start with a pinch of hints, there are some recommendations I suggest to follow.

If your coffee has...

  • light-to-medium body and high acidity (like El Salvador or Honduras) pair with creamy cheeses like Mozzarella, Ricotta or Paneer. Soft-ripened Bûche de Chèvre with slightly lemon aroma perfectly matches with high acidity of coffee.
  • medium-to-full body and medium acidity (like Tanzania and Ethiopia) pair with soft cheeses like Crottin de Chavignol, Feta, Brie, and Camembert de Normandie.
  • full body and low acidity (Sumatra) – smoked Mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, and hard-cooked Gruyère. The sourness of the coffee explodes the aged Gruyère, and the high temperature of the coffee is warming up the cheese to frank it.
  • medium-to-full body and low-to-medium acidity (Brazil and Colombia) pair with Cheddar, or aged Gouda. Gouda’s sugariness and caramel flavour enrich sweetness of coffee, accentuating nutty zest. Marry bitter coffee with aged, cloth-bound, smoked Cheddar.

Fundamentally, the “Cheese&Coffee” concept does not have one unique definition. Cheese and coffee fine points and manners may produce plenty of beverages depending on where you are at the moment. One of the most exotic ways to marry “C&C” is traditional Vietnamese street drink – it is not cheesed coffee, though, rather, it is egg coffee, or Cà phê trứng– as you might have conjectured, the whipped topping floating atop the drink contains eggs in addition to the cheese. The main recipe remains a secret, however, ingredients include egg yolk, sugar, robusta powder, condensed milk, and cheese, all of which are whisked and served with either hot or iced coffee.

In Europe, this eastward trend “put on top something else more and more and more” is a bit dissimilar from country to country, though. Brilliant carbohydrate-free coffee dairy combination: kaffeost, or coffee-cheese, world-famous Scandinavian practice. It is a workaday coffee, just with cheese. You do not add to your coffee anything else excepting cheese before couple it with a cup of coffee, just dip whole chunks of cheese into your mug, enjoying Fika – almost ritual common coffee break. Time to slow down, a moment where everything else pauses and you relish the present time. While you are contemplating on your cubes of salty cheese are absorbing hot sweet coffee-like buttery sponges. Nordic marshmallow detected, keep your taste-buds primed.