From Breton the intern:
Wednesday I also had the experience of cupping for the first time. Cupping is the wine tasting of the coffee world. At this point in time I came to the conclusion that not only is coffee an art, but a science here. Five glasses of six different types of coffee grinds in them were set out on the lab table.
First, we sniffed the grinds. I say sniff because it was explicitly explained that if you inhaled too deeply, you were likely to breathe in coffee grinds. Unpleasant experience? I imagine so. Every step of the way, it’s important to take notes and pay attention to differences. Do all five glasses smell the same? What undertones to you smell? How would you describe that smell? Using words instead of hand motions? That’s a little difficult if you’re like me. Also, can you tell the distinct difference between the first and third sets? Does the coffee smell differently when your mouth is opened or closed?
Then just boiled water, slightly cooled water was poured into all 30 cups. After sitting for a couple seconds, we went around with our special silver (or silver plated) spoons to smell the coffee again. The spoons are used in this step to push around the foam, pay attention to the consistency and smell the rising steam or foam on the back of the spoon. This time, you’re meant to pay attention to how the smell has changed from the grinds to the liquid brew. I was surprised how Las Lajas smelled very strong and somewhat spicy as a grind, but the Ethiopian which began with a similar, not as strong smell, ended up much brighter.
Next, the grinds were cleared away so we could taste the black goodness. Ok, tasting is pretty intense and the most important, most interesting part is the slurp. When you take a spoonful of coffee you don’t sip it slowly or put the whole spoon in your mouth, you slurp it. For professionals, these slurps are loud, strong and impressive. I couldn’t quite get the hang of it, so mine were pretty timid and lame in comparison. I think the reason for slurping has to do with aerating the coffee to affect the taste? We moved clockwise in a circle tasting each cup to discover the particularities of every coffee. I was amazed at the drastic difference from one type to the next. I also learned how coffee changes taste as it cools which is a key part of the process to pay attention to. A customer must be satisfied and happy with their coffee from the moment it is poured down to the last drop.
Thanks to everyone who went through the process with me– I truly learned a lot.