We've all heard of wine tasting and are familiar with some of the rituals involved; the spittoon, the deep nasal inhalation beforehand and the exhaustive notes which go towards determining the exact nuances of each vintage, but did you know that coffee tasters employ many of the same techniques to find their desired coffee.
At a professional coffee tasting session, known as "cupping," a line of empty cups is assembled. Ten grams each of freshly coarse ground coffee (similar to that used in a cafetiere) to be tested go into each cup, and these are topped up with 200 ml of water measuring 92-94 degrees. After four minutes, a crust will have formed. This is broken with a cupping spoon and a deep sniff is taken to take in all the complex aromas given from each coffee. The tasters then scoop out the grounds and spray a spoonful of the coffee all over their tongue. As with a wine, they roll the mixture around their mouths, carefully detecting changes in character and tone.
Seven key areas are taken into consideration when cupping - aromas initially 'when breaking the crust', then flavours and aftertastes, thirdly acidity and body and finally sweetness and cleanliness.
The "nose" or aroma of each coffee, taken in at that first vital sniff, is a distinct clue to its character, and it may be re-sampled by stirring up some of the grounds and sniffing again before the first taste. This is the crucial first impression and it is followed by the sample mouthful, taken in with a breath and a sharp inhalation, in order to distribute the coffee all over the tongue.
The art of coffee tasting is every bit as complex, dedicated and knowledgeable as that of the wine connoisseurs, and from the tree to the cup, its journey through export, roasting and blending is assiduously studied by those who classify it.
Great coffee does not only taste good, we believe it can do good; all blends ordered from our Coffee Project support small independent growers. Call us today to arrange your own cupping and tasting session!