How to Pair Coffee With Dessert (and Cheesecake)

Pairing coffee and dessert is a science and art form that can bring out more flavour when done right. You want to pair complementary flavour profiles with coffee and dessert.  To pair them well, you’ll need to understand the flavour profiles behind different single-origin coffee beans.

Mocha and The Sin Cheesecakes by Trees Organic Coffee

The proper coffee and cheesecake pairing bring similar flavours together to enhance each one.  With the right coffee, you’ll pick up subtleties of the cheesecake you didn’t notice on your last visit to Trees.  Over time, you’ll experiment with different flavours and find the favourite pairing.  

At Craft Coffee Spot, I provide a variety of brewing guides about specialty coffee.  I’ve researched coffee flavour and collaborated with Trees on a guide for pairing coffee with dessert.  We reviewed the flavours behind Trees in-house roasted coffee and their signature cheesecakes.  After much review, we came up with a recommended pairing for the entire cheesecake menu.

Signature CheesecakeCoffee Pairing
New YorkColombia
Maple WalnutPapua New Guinea or Sumatra
Key LimeEthiopia
Rasberry White ChocolateColombia or Mexico

Before understanding coffee flavour profiles and specific cheesecake pairings, let’s start with the basics.  Then, we’ll explain each of the recommended pairings above.

The Science and Art Behind Pairing Flavors

Generally, you want to pair flavours that complement each other.  Our tongues have thousands of taste buds that are sensitive to different flavours. When you pair foods or drinks that are vastly different, the flavours clash and overpower our senses, sending a mixed taste for both items.  Said differently, there’s a reason we tend to prefer sweet or savoury and not both!

When pairing a coffee for dessert, we should choose a coffee with a relatively similar flavour profile to the dessert.  You don’t want to pair the intense smoky and dark chocolate flavour of a Sumatran roast with the citrus of a Key Lime cheesecake.

A complimentary flavour profile will enhance the flavour of the cheesecake.  Your taste buds and brain will focus on one singular flavour profile for dessert and coffee. When you have a complementary pairing, you’ll notice more flavour of that signature cheesecake that you missed last time.  Pairing a Peruvian roast with a balanced body will bring out the creaminess and flavour of a Tiramisu.

Understanding Coffee Flavor

To select the right coffee pairing every time, you’ll need to understand the general flavour profile behind coffee.  Coffee flavours are more subtle, like wine, and take a little time to understand.

There are three main aspects to coffee’s flavour profile:

  • Acidity: refers to how the coffee creates dryness in the mouth.  When you feel your lips slightly pucker during that first sip, that is the acidity of coffee.  High-acidity coffee (like Ethiopia or Peru blends) pairs well with fruity flavors of cheesecake.
  • Body: refers to the mouthfeel of the coffee.  When the taste lingers after the sip, that refers to a full body.  Coffee that washes down easily has a light body.  Cheesecakes are rich and pair better with a full-body coffee from Honduras or Sumatra.  
  • Flavor notes: individual notes depend on the origin of the bean.  Trees sources beans from around the world, including a dark chocolate flavor from Mexico to a mix of citrus fruit from Colombia.  

Pairing Coffee and Dessert by Roast Profile

Another easy way to pair coffee and dessert is by the roast profile.  As a rule of thumb, pair lighter roast coffee with lighter desserts and darker roast coffee with heavier desserts.

Light roasts tend to have acidity and bright flavours (the brightness means the flavours “pop” more).  Those flavours come from the light, volatile compounds in coffee, which are the first to burn off during the roast process.  Roasting stops after the first crack of the bean for a light roast, retaining most of those volatile flavour compounds.  When you order a light roast from Trees, expect complex fruity flavours.

As beans have the second crack during a roast, they become a medium roast.  Soon after, they become a dark roast.  Oils are more present on a dark roast, and you may notice dark roast beans seem to shine.  Those oils add body, while the individual flavour notes aren’t as prevalent.  Dark roast coffee tastes rich and creamy, while the flavour notes are more roasted or burnt.  The Trees Sumatran roast has a smoky and full body taste.

Trees Signature Cheesecake Pairings

In this shortlist, we will explain the flavours of the cheesecake and our recommended coffee pairing. Whether you enjoy espresso, cappuccinos, or just straight black coffee, there is a combination for you at Trees Cheesecake and Organic Coffee.

The list below goes through each of Trees’ signature cheesecakes with our recommended coffee by origin.

New York Cheesecake and Colombia Coffee

A creaming classic with a hint of lemon and vanilla, this perfect slice of heaven pairs well with a medium roast coffee, ideally one with origins in Colombia due to its fruity flavour notes and light acidity.

Blueberry Cheesecake and Mexico Coffee

Blueberries have a tart flavour, and paired with cheesecake can become a bit overpowering. However, the best way to balance out this cheesecake is with a medium roast with a smooth body.  We recommend the Mexico beans as the stone fruit and the roasted nut flavour cuts the blueberry with some complementary stone fruit.  This dessert is the perfect flavour for a black coffee drinker.

Oreo Cheesecake and Honduras Coffee

This delicious classic chocolate and vanilla combo belong with almost any roast out there. However, we recommend pairing it with something high in body that will go well with the chocolate.  The Honduras coffee is a good medium roast where the cocoa and caramel go well with the oreo flavours.  

Maple Walnut Cheesecake and Papua New Guinea Coffee (or Sumatra)

You should pair this decadent nutty dessert with an equal, whose full-bodied milk chocolate hints make it a vital companion for maple and walnut. We recommend a cappuccino or espresso of Papua New Guinea coffee and a Sumatra as a second choice.

Tiramisu Cheesecake and Peru Coffee

A coffee-lovers go-to dessert, Tiramisu is beautiful layers of cocoa and cream with just a hint of espresso and coffee. It is perfect with a Peru where the smooth body and acidity will bring out the creaminess. 

Key Lime Cheesecake and Ethiopia Coffee

For those who want bright flavours, we recommend the Ethiopia light roast with the Key Lime cheesecake.  Both are packed with citrus, and you’ll notice the tart lime flavour in the cheesecake with some floral notes in the light roast Ethiopia coffee.

Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake and Colombia Coffee (or Ethiopia)

This tricky combination of cheesecake has a tart but subtly sweet chocolate flavour. Hardly easy to pair with coffee, but you can’t go wrong with the light and citrussy Ethiopian roast. As a latte with a bit of cream or black, it will bring out the flavours of the cheesecake as only contrasting flavours can.

Chocoholic Cheesecake and Sumatra Coffee

Chocolate and coffee go together so well that the entire internet usually agrees on it. The Chocoholic will be amongst the richest of the signature menu, and it should go with a coffee that has a full body.  The Sumatra roast fits this best with caramel and cherry to balance out the flavour.

Trees Organic Coffee & Roasting House

More Fun Pairing Coffee and Dessert

Pairing desserts with coffee can be confusing and daunting when you don’t know much about either. Once you understand the basics of pairing complementary flavours, you’ll notice the individual tastes more.  Over time, experiment with different combinations, and you’ll see what is most enjoyable for your palette!

We can learn a lot about a person from their flavour choices and combinations, and the same can be said for Trees Cheesecake. Knowing your ideal combination and the flavours that tingle your tastebuds is the knowledge you’ll never regret knowing.

About the Author

Marko Lazarevic is the founder of Craft Coffee Spot. He has been drinking craft coffee since stumbling upon a Kalita Wave during his first job. Since then, he has been trying new single-origin blends and different ways to brew coffee, and sharing the learnings through his brewing guides. His favourite brewing device is a French press.

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