It was a perfect Hong Kong day. The only thing to distract from the view at Tosca in The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, is the cuisine of Pino Lavarra. The Michelin-starred chef was joined by Pablo Basso, the distinguished Best Sommelier in the World 2013, for a lunch featuring dishes made with Nespresso coffee paired with wine that best enhances them. The event showcased Lavarra’s genius at inventing cuisine that is novel and familiar at the same time. It also spotlights coffee as both the supporting character and the star, as every dish from starter to dessert featured Nespresso.

There are many similarities between coffee and wine. “Both beverages are a combination of soil, climate and savoir faire,” notes Roger Staeheli, country manager for Hong Kong Nespresso SA. “Much like fine wine, the production process of gourmet coffee encompasses an extremely high level of expertise—from the growing, harvesting and sorting of coffee cherries and grapes to the roasting techniques of the beans and fermentation of the grapes. There are also many parallel complex aromatic profiles found in wine and coffee. Descriptions commonly used to describe wine, such as smooth, intense and fruity, also apply to the description of coffee.”

Staeheli, a native of Switzerland, grew up influenced by the contrasting coffee cultures of northern and southern Europe. “In western and southern Switzerland, coffee is traditionally enjoyed black in a short cup, while people in the north mainly drink their coffee in a long cup with milk or cream.” He believes that as gastronomy becomes more sophisticated, coffee’s complexities can be utilised to create unusual and stunning recipes. “In traditional cuisines, coffee was seen as an ingredient only for sweet dishes when in reality it can be added to any dish. There is a growing trend in using coffee in food recipes as it often provides a touch of liveliness and novelty. The most suited coffees for food pairings are Lungos and Espressos. To match coffee with a specific food such as fish, fresh fruit and cheese, choose a coffee that creates a balanced taste between the two ingredients either through its similar qualities—softness, persistence—or opposite qualities such as acidity, bitterness.”

A deft home cook, Staeheli enjoys experimenting with coffee in his dishes, and encourages others to do the same. “Rosabaya de Colombia gives an interesting twist to French toast,” he notes. “Simply add one capsule to your normal French toast batter—the fruity-winey and roasted notes enhance the sweet flavours of this breakfast favourite. I believe that coffee can truly enhance the gourmet experience and have enjoyed trying a few recipes from the two My Nespresso Coffee Cuisine books. These were created to surprise and delight club members with exclusive delectable coffee infused recipes crafted by some of Hong Kong’s culinary experts.”