By Sanuri Perera
Coffee Cupping is the art of tasting coffee. Now if you happened to know about how to taste coffee, you’d also know there is a science to the entire process. I can’t speak much on the technical aspect of it all so I’ve turned to someone with more knowledge to help me out. All you coffee enthusiasts, read on!
Why is coffee tasting so important? Just like tea tasting or wine tasting, coffee cupping is also a form of enjoying your favourite cup of coffee while learning more about its taste and smell. By going through the cupping process you will be able to identify the right coffee for you and also discover other varieties of coffee.
Coffee is grown in many places around the world and in each place the coffee taste differs. From floral to burned rubber, the coffee tells its story. When you get the hang of how coffee cupping is done, you’ll be able to tell the freshness, origin, region and class of coffee.
How to cup your coffee
To kick off, you’re going to need a coffee tasting notebook that you can write down tips, tricks and other extra notes down. This will also stand as a record of the coffee you are to taste, your notes on its flavour and aroma as you go along.
Note that the flavour and taste of your coffee will differ depending on the grind and how long you let it sit in hot water. Therefore, the key to cupping is consistency. You need to ensure that the coffee beans are weighed out to the exact gram age, the water in each bowl is the same millimetres, the temperature of the water is consistent and that every bowl is steeped in the water for exactly 3 minutes before the coffee is broken.
Step 1: Smell the coffee
Step 2: Write down the note of the aromas
Step 3: Grind the coffee and pour the hot water
Step 4: Let it sit there for 3 minutes
Step 5: Afterwards, break the crust and smell the coffee again.
Step 6: Finally, scoop up all the ground coffee. You will be left with the coffee residue, which looks like filter coffee. You then use your spoon (which is very similar to a soup spoon) and take a sip or a slurp of the coffee. The art here is to make as much noise as possible. Go ahead and slurp loud! You basically put aside all those manners that were taught and make as much noise using your palette and tongue. Then suck the coffee through your teeth and stretch the coffee over the palette of your tongue and really taste the coffee.
Step 7: Do NOT swallow the coffee. Spit it back out into a paper cup or a spittoon.
Step 8: Write down your taste and the aroma of the coffee
Who tastes coffee?
The majority of coffee tasters are professional ones who have prior cupping experience. Coffee tasters should also be able to grind coffee, put out the cupping bowls and be able to conduct a coffee tasting themselves. It is the best way to demonstrate to any customer or anyone who is not in the industry on how to gain experience in coffee cupping. Where most people know how to taste and cup wine, the same happens in the coffee industry.
Coffee lovers will find coffee cupping sessions a delight. Some coffee houses abroad conduct cupping sessions and the beauty of this process is that the coffee bean buyers actually witness the coffee cupping of the farmers, and they take this cupping experience to their customers; who then take it to their Baristas; who in turn share this knowledge with the final consumer. Consequently, you get an authentic experience. This provides the consumer with a good knowledge on the difference between a good and bad cup of coffee.
A big thank you to our coffee cupping expert: James Shepherd who is a former World Barista Champion and presently Chairman of Board for World Coffee Events, which among other things hosts the world Barista Championship. He has been a Coffee Roaster for over 12 years and is currently working as International Sales Manager at ‘Beyond the Bean, UK’. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us about the beautiful world of coffee!