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Coffee with dessert, or after?

A post on my local board got me thinking. My mother always insisted that coffee came *after* dessert. She does feel the need to clarify that when she orders, but always in such a tone as to imply that the server *should* know that already (but probably doesn't, hence the need to specify).
Despite her tutelage I confess - I like coffee with my dessert to cut the sweet a bit. Especially with a chocolate dessert. Also, if some of my party is having only coffee, no dessert, it's nicer if we all have something at the same time. On the other hand I can see that the coffee would dull the palate for something more delicate.

What is your preference? How is it done in formal restaurants? Should the server always ask?

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  1. normally, coffee is served after desert. I don't think this is such an important rule now.. if you want it with desert order it with desert. After all, etiquette was that one could only smoke after the meal, once the coffee came, but now there's no smoking.. so I say do as you very well please.

    1. Coffee is essential to cut the sweet, as you describe it, for me. good with pan dulce

      1. I believe this came from my post. I prefer it with my dessert to help counteract the sweetness. This does not mean that I might not decide, in certain cases, to have more coffee after dessert on its own. I believe in the case I mentioned, it was clear that I wanted to have the coffee with dessert. The waiter set up the milk for my coffee and then he got busy. I think he just forgot it.
        I was thinking something along the lines of a previous poster that I think coffee after dessert as a rule is was a better rule when it went along with hours of smoking (sigh) and chatting.

        5 Replies
        1. re: pescatarian

          oh I'm sorry I did forget the sigh, but the heart was there :)

          1. re: pescatarian

            Yes it was inspired by your post, but I was just curious what people prefer - not trying to say there is a right way or a wrong way.

            I agree in Toronto these days, the waiter should ask if they aren't sure, because I think most people prefer the coffee with the dessert as we do.

            Or they should just not forget the coffee altogether:)

            1. re: julesrules

              Agreed. I think it is more common in TO these days to get the coffee alongside dessert.

          2. Coffee is the Ying to a sweet dessert's Yang. I always assumed after dinner drinks(brandy, cognac) or digestifs were ordered as the finale. This assumes you drink alcohol, of course.

            If you order coffee after dessert, what do you drink with dessert..your dinner wine or water?

            2 Replies
            1. re: mamamia

              A well-paired dessert wine, perhaps? Just adding to the possibilities.

              1. re: mamamia

                I've actually had my dinner wine, probably a cab, turn out to be a great match for the chocolate tart I served. Totally unplanned though.
                I always wonder about dessert wines because they seem so sweet -I imagine the pairing would have to be really well done?
                The smoking thing makes perfect sense - avoids a dessert lady vs. smoking lady fight, which I imagine could get mighty ugly!

              2. In Europe, dessert is always served before coffee is even mentioned. Then again, in Europe, particularly in France, Belgium, Austria,..., the desserts are not excessively sweet like they are in all of North America except Montreal, Quebec City, and some other parts of the province of Quebec (tarte au sucre excepted). The Europeans have a less heavy hand when it comes to sweets. Perhaps this is why one doesn't need coffee to counteract the sweetness. The dessert is perfectly balanced on its own.

                1. I prefer to have my coffee (espresso) after dessert - to me, it's a nice way to round off the meal, though often, these days (aging) I order a decaffinated one ... When the waiter asks if we would like coffee and dessert we say, dessert, and coffee afterwards, please.

                    1. If you were at a formal dinner, dessert would be served and finished, the dishes and flatware cleared before coffee would be served, always in demi-tasse cups. Sometimes it is served at table, other times in another room with brandy and cordials.
                      Restaurant service has gotten significantly less formal but you should take your cue from your surroundings and companions. Most Asians, Arabs and Europeans still follow more formal manners than most Americans and, rightly or wrongly, consider many Americans ill-bred for their casual style.
                      If you are with friends, do what you choose.
                      It is worthwhile knowing what is correct. Many corporations are hiring protocol consultants to teach formal manners to their executives so they don't give offense unwittigly. It's a pity to lose a business deal or a diplomatic initiative because you don't know the proper etiquette in a certain situation.