When one discusses pairing beverages with cigars, it is spirits and perhaps wine which are most commonly considered as suitable. However, following this initial rush of blood, the second option is (and if it isn’t, God knows it should be) coffee. My opinion on the matter is simple: there is no greater indulgence than sitting on the veranda, in the late afternoon or early morning, with a beautiful cigar, and a rich, heartwarming cup of coffee. 

It is not difficult to understand why cigars and coffee go hand in hand: both crops are grown in tropical, equatorial climates; the flavours within both of these indulgences, when enjoyed in their premium and purest states, are not artificial, but rather resultant of climate, terroir, the mineral composition of the soil in which they are grown, and the processes by which they are harvested and prepared for consumption. Naturally, it will only take a quick glance at both a cigar and coffee flavour wheel to notice a lot of overlap. For those passionados among us who, like myself, are driven by the constant search for the next perfect pairing, this overlap signals the opportunity to experiment with interesting flavour combinations. 

Ultimately, the best pairing is the one which fulfils you: taste is, after all,  totally and utterly subjective. However, there are some basic guidelines which will ensure that you start your journey of exploration off on the right foot.

Before we even begin to consider flavour, we must be aware of the respective strengths and bodies of our cigars and coffees. Pairing a full strength and full bodied cigar with a light coffee will render your palate unable to decipher any of the subtle flavours within the latter. If the reverse were to occur, the coffee would drown out the cigar. Therefore, ensuring that you strike this balance will greatly improve the complexity of your potential pairings, as it will allow you to detect and appreciate the most nuanced and subtle expressions of both offerings. 

With that having been said, let’s talk flavour. The most basic point from which to begin involves considering coffees which are complimentary to your cigar. For example, a mild, creamy, lighter roast would pair beautifully with a sweet, honeyed Connecticut shade. However, keep in mind that cigars (and in many instances coffee) exhibit flavour profiles that are, complex, nuanced and dynamic, with transitions in flavour occurring throughout; herein lies one of the reasons for the impossibility of writing cardinal rules for pairing. 

However, don’t lose faith, for whilst there can be no cardinal rules, there can always be guidelines, of which there have plenty on offer. The following points may assist you in understanding the level at which your particular brew resides, and which cigars you may want to consider. 

First, take a look at the impact which the roasting process has on the coffee’s overall flavour profile: 

  • Light Roast: Sharper acidity, clear and mild, more origin flavours.
  • Medium Roast: A greater balance between the acidity, sweetness and other aromas.
  • Medium-Dark Roast: The acidity is less pronounced, moving into chocolate-like flavour territory.
  • Dark Roast: Distinct dark chocolate flavours, and a heavy mouthfeel.

Equally as important as the roast is the country of origin: 

  • Coffee Grown in Africa: Coffees from Africatend to present fruit driven flavour profiles balanced by crisp acidity. Kenyan coffee has been known to deliver blackcurrant and grape (inherently acidic fruits). Ethiopia, one of the most unique and well known coffee growing regions, imparts sweet, milder acidity with and underlying suggestion of delicate berries and fruit. 
  • Coffee Grown in America: In Central America, coffees from areas such as Panama offer rich fruit and floral notes, whereas Honduras presents crisper acidity amongst fruits such as green apple and cherry (for example). On the other hand, coffees such as those from Brazil provide a much deeper and more balanced profile of chocolate and caramel expressions.
  • Coffee Grown in Asia: When it comes to Asia, the most prominent coffee-growing region is Indonesia. You’ll usually be able to pick out very distinct meaty, earthy characteristics, and in some beans, a toasted, smokey flavour profile may be apparent. Sumatra similarly offers a more savoury flavour profile, with heavy and complex notes undercut by suggestions of berries and crisp acidity. Over to Papua New Guinea, you’ll find a much cleaner and balanced flavour profile, with bright citrus acidities and even a herb-like taste.

So there you have it: a primer on pairing cigars with coffee. To summarise, keep in mind the body and strength of both offerings, consider the roast and country of origin of the coffee to give you an idea of what it has to offer in order to pair it accordingly, and when first starting out,  complimentary pairings are the best way to. When enjoying a coffee earlier in the day, I prefer a lighter roast with medium body. My ideal cigar for these moments is the Joya de Nicaragua Numero Uno L’ambassadeur; the cigar has an Ecuadorian Connecticut wrapper with Nicaraguan binder and fillers, offering a mild to medium smoke with subtle flavours and a smooth, creamy mouthfeel. When enjoying a coffee at the end of my day, a darker, spicy, full flavoured brew is my go-to, often paired with a rich maduro like the Arturo Fuente Rothschild Maduro, or the Casa Turrent Origin Series San Andrés (you can see a review of this cigar on my Instagram page, mr_cigarman). 

I’ll conclude with the inspiration for wiring this post. The other night, I enjoyed what I think is one of the best coffee-cigar pairings I’ve experienced to date: the Romeo y Julieta Short Churchill (also reviews on my instagram page) with the St Ali Orthodox blend. Both offerings presented sophisticated nuances of sweet red apples balanced by spicy chocolate, however the savoury notes of leather, spicy cedar and mineral laden earth in the cigar brought the coffee’s subtle fudge and jam-like flavours to life. Meditative moments of quiet contemplation and calm elevated by two of the oldest, most revered, and respected artisanal products known to mankind: coffee and tobacco. Balmy evenings on the veranda don’t get much better…

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