I have had the opportunity to introduce many people to their first cup of great coffee. I have
been a part of hosting and attending many cuppings from California to Canada. A few months ago the government of Chiapas, Mexico covered all expenses to have me meet with farmers and cooperatives in Chiapas and to be a part of that years coffee cupping competition to rate the best coffee coming out of Chiapas.
Just yesterday I hosted a cupping in Toronto which got me thinking I need to write a blog about how people experience their first cup of great coffee.
The thing is, there is something I experience every time I’m at a cupping table. I admit that it’s my fault, I should probably have created a better explanation on how to approach taste, or I should respect the moments prior to the cupping to get people in the right frame of mind. You can’t just throw people into the “cupping ring” and expect them to come out unharmed. The thing that happens almost every single time I take people in unprepared is at least one individual comes out thinking they hate great coffee!
It’s mind boggling absurd! And years ago I even thought slightly offensive. Disgusting!? Tea like!? Doesn’t taste like coffee!? Listen to yourself. It’s coffee, in fact its great coffee! (I don’t know about you, but I find great humour in this!)
So I think it’s time I work through my pre-cupping routine, and we’ll do it together as I’m still hashing this out and haven’t tried it on “subjects”. I think both I, and the participants will come out better for it.
3 things you must do before you experience great coffee:
– Define what constitutes “great”?
When we’re drinking great wine or eating great food we approach it with a different state of mind. We want the experience of grandiose flavors. Does the steak make me want to throw ketchup on it? Maybe it’s just ground beef.
– Flavor and aromatics are King and Queen.
Exemplary flavor = Sweet, balanced acidity, clean, well-developed body and phenomenal aromatics. Use the tools at your disposal; nose, taste, feel.
What does it smell like? How does that smell alter or complement the taste? How does it feel? Is the weight in your mouth heavier like milk, or lighter like water?
– Put your preferences on hold.
We tend to approach everything in life through the lens of our culture. Food and drink is no exception. If you grew up with bland food and coffee, chances are you want to neutralize and are put off by any thing that has flavor. Try to put preferences aside as much as possible and approach the coffee by concentrating on what you’re smelling and tasting and not thinking about if you enjoy it or not.
See how taking 5 – 10 minutes prior to cupping and going through these steps changes your outcome on the experience.
I can already see that when I’m going into a coffee cupping, before my mind and mouth are prepared I get much less value out of the experience.
It’s ok to dislike certain coffees, foods and wines; the important part is knowing why you dislike them. This will help in your purchasing decisions and you’ll grow by leaps and bounds in knowing your likes and dislikes.
And because your taste buds are on 10 day to two week cycles, you might actually start enjoying that coffee you hated two weeks ago.