If you’re the kind of coffee drinker who loves to try new blends or origins, then the next step to build on your coffee knowledge has to be cupping. Like wine tasting, coffee cupping is all about comparing flavours, notes and acidity levels in a range of origins and blends in the one sitting.
Coffee cupping explained
There is a particular way that people in the (coffee) know set up their cupping stations. A round or long table is usually used to hold around 10 cups of coffee, ready to be tasted. Stools are placed in front of each cup with a spittoon nearby, just like in a winery, where they can delicately dispose of each mouthful. Various cups of coffee are prepared and labelled, ready to be examined by a group of avid tasters.
Each person is given a large spoon to dip into the cups. They take in the aroma with a deep sniff and slurp loudly on the spoon so the flavours cover the whole tongue. Although slurping and sniffing sounds anything but refined, this is the go when you’re trying to identify different aromas, flavours and levels of acidity. So just go with it!
What to look for
There are three main things to look for when tasting each cup. They are:
* Acidity – Despite how it sounds, acidity is desirable in a coffee. It refers to the bright, tangy and citrus type flavours like lemons and apples.
* Body – The body of a coffee refers to the physical way the coffee feels in your mouth. For example, full bodied coffees have a strong, creamy and pleasant mouth feel.
* Flavour – You can pick up a multitude of subtle flavours in coffees with many being associated with aroma, much like wine.
Aromas to identify
There are so many different aromas to look for when tasting and, like anything, practice makes perfect. Here are a few you may be able to identify:
- Animal – think a nice version of fur, leather or even (dare I say it) urine!
- Ash – the aroma of fireplaces or ash trays
- Burnt – the extreme version of ash, think burnt toast
- Chemical – hospital, medicine kinda smells
- Chocolate – now we’re talking!
- Malt/cereal – grain aromas
- Earthy – soil, raw potato or even mould (don’t shoot the messenger!)
- Rotten – like the smell of your compost heap
- Rubber – rubber bands or burnt tyres
- Wine – more acidic tasting than fermented
- Woody – oak, cardboard or dry wood
Why taste test?
Like any professional or passionate amateur, knowing your product is vital. This is what cupping does for us and can do for you. It helps us know various flavour notes common to different coffee growing regions. This doesn’t mean that all African coffees, for example, will always exhibit the same characteristics but gives us a foundation to build on and base our descriptions on. Then we can more easily compare and contrast each blend/origin.
It also helps us create beautiful blends that are really interesting and unique. Besides all this, it’s a really fun and fascinating way to spend your time when you have a passion for coffee.
Coffee cupping course
Our amazing team at Sacred Grounds are holding a couple of coffee cupping /tasting sessions on the 2nd April and the 4th June 2015. Discover how to identify different aromas, flavours and acidity levels in a range of amazing brews. For more information or to sign up, click here!
What’s your favourite flavour combination?
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