Wine and cheese tasting is so 2011, for 2014 and beyond it’s all about Coffee & Cheese pairing. Not as unusual as you may think, cheese pairings are going beyond the realm of the after dinner staple into pairings with craft beers, cured meats and even chocolate. But today, I’m invited to Notes Coffee to try out their innovative Coffee and Cheese tastings.
Notes was founded in 2010 when speciality coffee was but a distant pipe dream and chain stores ruled the roost. Our coffee whisperer host for the evening, Fabio, also one of Notes founders tells us of his childhood growing up in a Brazilian coffee growing family. Despite this upbringing, he grew up not liking coffee and it was only many years later on his travels around Italy that he fell in love with the Italian way of drinking coffee, in cafes, in shops, for any time of the day. In Brazil, coffee was something to drink at home, not a drink to socialise with.
What he found very amusing on first coming to Europe is the habit of having cheese after dinner, whereas growing up in Brazil cheese is quite a common snack, for any time of the day. It’s mostly plain cheeses that the Brazilians are fond of, so when he decided he pair his newfound love of coffees with the after dinner cheese, he found it a bit of a challenge.
Needless to say, he’s lined up quite a treat for us – there are 4 delectable varieties to come and we launch straight into tastings.
First up is the Finca Pantanal with a Durham Cotherstone. Harvesting this crop was a bit of a personal coup for Fabio, there’s a lot of coffee roasters out there in the world attempting to get their hands on it. This is a slightly sweeter coffee, good for a coffee novice perhaps, unaccustomed to the richness of coffee, especially tried in the evenings. As the coffee cools, the flavour changes perceptibly and becomes softer and sweeter. The Cotherstone is a cows milk cheese, which works best with coffees as the cheeses are fattier and not quite as sweet as those made with Goats milk.
Next up, we move to a richer coffee, this time the Costa Rican Don Mayo. Just opening a packet of this coffee showers the group with smells of fresh baking – if there was a candle or aroma made out of this coffee, it would be an instant best seller.
The Cornish Yarg that accompanies this is uneventful, it’s perfectly fine, milder than I like my cheeses to be, but once paired with the coffee, they complement each other. The coffee tastes milkier, less rich and more in keeping with a latte.
The next coffee and cheese pairing had mixed reviews and of course it was my favourite, contrary sort of individual that I am. Kamiro is actually a village cooperative in Rwanda and the in the last 4 years the quality of the coffee produced there has changed dramatically. It’s very sweet, but bitter sweet, sort of like a dense rye bread or a very dark chocolate. The Munster that comes with it is made from a raw cow’s milk and is pungent and treated to some wrinkled noses. I’ve always been fond of a smelly cheese so this doesn’t sway me, but the magic really happens when the two are paired together.
A bit of cheese and a slurp of coffee and I’m in heaven – it’s like some kind of stinky sweet coffee cheese milkshake. Ok so clearly I’m no wordsmith, but you’ll have to take my word at just how fantastic it is – if you like your cheese on the smellier side of pungent and a fan of sharp flavours, this is for you.
All too soon, it’s time for dessert. And in the world of coffee and cheese pairings, this comes in the form of a La Esperanza espresso, Parmigiano and an interesting addition in the form of chestnut honey. The chestnut honey and the parmesan is another winning combination and with the coffee, it’s a very mild soothing experience to round of a meal.
Heading out into the night, my heart remains firmly with the Kamiro and Munster and so it’s not surprising that I take a little bag of beans home with me. Now here’s hoping someone gives me a coffee machine for Christmas..Somebody? Anybody?
There are a few branches of Notes around London and what struck me most is that they’re more than just your average joe cafe – sure they have cosy spaces for catching up with friends and family but their speciality coffee and dedicated brews set them apart. Their staff are knowledgable and more than happy to point you in the direction of what your personal tastes might lead you to and in the evenings, there are worse places to spend an evening curled up with a glass of wine and a little platter to keep you going.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Notes for their coffee and cheese pairings, but not compelled to say nice things. Views are as always, my own. I’m now off to source me some smelly cheese to go with my Kamiro.
There are 3 Notes branches across London – Moorgate, Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square, you can find location details here.