Coffee Collaborations: When Two Plus Two Equals Amazing

    What happens when you put two or more passionate food artisans in a room and step out of the way? Just about what you'd expect to happen whenever you put a group of passionate artists together: they start imagining ways to collaborate. Just as some of the most amazing music results when disparate musicians start jamming, so do amazing things happen when you get practiced and passionate food artistes together with amazing coffee roasters. The coffee collaborators include craft brewers, artisanal chocolatiers, charcutiers and even artisanal cheesemakers. They've all discovered what craft coffee roasters have known for ages: coffee adds an indefinable depth and richness to the flavor of just about everything. Today, we're highlighting some of the amazing craft food artisans who are creating memorable coffee collaborations.  

Coffee and Craft Brewing: Brews and Beans

  Craft brewing and artisanal roasting are a match that was destined to happen. Both brewers and roasters appreciate the subtle -- and not so subtle -- differences that season, age, roast and ingredients can make in a finished beverage. Thus, it's not surprising that craft brewers were among the first to start combining coffee with their own crafted products. The most popular coffee/brew collaborations tend to be stout ales, but craft brewers are increasingly stepping outside the box to experiment with lighter brews and beans. Last year, it was an India IPA brewed with coffee that won Chicago's Iron Brew homebrew competition. The winning brew, Dayman Coffee IPA, combines the bite of citrus with bold coffee flavor imparted by a blend of Sumatran, Guatemalan and Ethiopian coffees. It's being bottled as a limited collaboration by Stone Brewing Co.    


Coffee and Chocolate: Beans and Nibs

  No one should be surprised that coffee and chocolate are long-standing collaborative ingredients. After all, coffee and cacao trees often grow side by side, and the beans share many similar flavors. The flavors complement each other so well that we have a name for the combination -- mocha. From chocolate covered espresso beans to infused espresso truffles, you don't have to look far to find delicious foods that combine coffee and chocolate. There are, however, some artisans that are taking their collaborations to the next level. In North Carolina, for example, The Secret Chocolatier and Magnolia Coffee worked together to create a chocolate espresso bark that's pure heaven. Chocolate and coffee may be one of the easiest of all coffee collaborations for you to try at home, and later in the week, we'll talk about how to combine the two flavors in delectable desserts.  

Coffee Charcuterie: Beans and Meat

  Charcutiers specialize in cured meats and sausages. Coffee is a frequent ingredient in rubs for steak, chicken and pork, but it's still unusual to find it used as an ingredient in curing meats or making sausage. We've experimented a bit and found that coffee-cured pork shoulder is pretty darned good, even with the little experience we have in the area of charcuterie. Salt and Time, a charcuterie in Austin, TX, has a whole lot more experience than we do, and it shows. Their Coffee Lomo, a coffee-cured pork shoulder made with Cuvee Coffee, put them on Bon Appetit's list of America's Best Charcuterie. Want to try it yourself? We'll include a few tips on curing meats with coffee in our DIY coffee collaborations post later this week.  

Coffee Rubbed Cheese: Beans and Whey

  A while back, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver included cheese, honey and coffee on his tapas list for a Central American feast. It may sound odd, but the deep notes in dark-roasted coffee are an ideal complement to the savory richness of creamy cheeses like manchego and queso fresco. Cheese and coffee is not an unusual combination in some Spanish cultures, where it's common to drop cubes of Gouda or Edam cheese into hot coffee to soften, and then scoop it up with bread. Beehive Cheese Company has taken the whole concept a step further. The Utah artisan cheese company rubs fresh cheese with a blend of lavender and robust coffee from Colorado Legacy Coffee Company to create Barely Buzzed Cheese, a creamy cheese that has taken first place in the American Cheese Society annual awards no less than four times since 2007. Iffy about trying cheese and coffee? Consider trying it in tiramisu, cheesecake or blended into cream cheese as a first step.   We're just barely skimming the surface of possible coffee collaborations here. Poke around a bit and you'll find other unusual collabs -- like craft coffee roasters who are aging their beans in wine and brandy casks and liquor companies who are working closely with artisan roasters to source custom blends for their liqueurs and vodkas. Keep your eyes peeled for more and better collaborations as more and more food crafters discover the versatility of coffee as a collaborative ingredient.  

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