Thanks to Michelle, for connecting me with Kevin at Theta Ridge Coffee in South Bend. Kevin did a great job setting this up and was a great guide through my first cupping. It was a pleasure getting to know you and Ray and Robert at Theta Ridge. Thanks again for the maiden voyage in cupping.
Since I know that most of you reading this have no idea what so ever what cupping coffee is I’ll back up just a little. Cupping coffee is a lot like wine tasting. [Now I’m speaking the language here in grape country!] The taster should take note of aroma, taste and body while sampling.
Coffee like wine has many different variables that affect the taste. Regions grown, climate of those regions, altitude, humidity, etc. Which may all change on any given year. How it’s processed, how long and where the beans sit, etc. all major factors. Then comes variables in the roasting process. Temp, and time are the biggest like all things prepared with heat. There are 2500 known characteristics to coffee. You never knew it went that deep did you? Neither did I until I started drinking good coffee.
Here’s how an actual cupping goes. Kevin’s set up: There were 5 varieties we tasted, 3 Ethiopians [Sidamo, Yirgacheffe, and Hararr], Brazilian Bob-O-Link, and Columbian Supremo. Each coffee was freshly ground put into [6oz?] glasses. Each variety was separated by a cloth you could use to wipe the spoon with. There were also 5 glasses of water, to rinse the spoon off. There were small trays with green[un-roasted] and roasted beans closer to the center of the table. The table can turn so you don’t have to walk. But we did the rotating most of the time. I regret not taking a picture!
Phase 1. [this probably has a cooler name like flight, pass, or something that I am ignorant of, sorry.]
You smell with your mouth open, and nose and mouth in the glass. Its good to agitate the grounds before you smell.
Phase 2 breaking the crust
you wet the rounds with water right around 200 degrees. You let them bloom/steep/soak for a few minutes. When breaking the crust you push back the crust with the spoon, away from you and smell as you do. Always rinsing between glasses. This is to not contaminate each sample. You can pick up differnet characteristics in different samples. And we did! More to come on that subject.
Phase 3 – tasting
Fast of all you have to ignore what your Mom taught you about slurping a liquid. You want it to be an explosive slurp. Aerating, and spraying the coffee all over your taste buds. Then you spit. You could probably handle swallowing the coffee with this size of cupping. But anything bigger, I wouldn’t suggest it. I spit all but at the end. I wanted to experience fully the samples that I like the best.
Onto some of the specifics. I picked up different nut characteristics in several samples. That was fun picking up some knew tastes. It was Walnut more than say Hazelnut, which my taste buds know well.
Sidamo had the most variance. It had second favorite and it had the worst! Kevin even let the cat out of the bag before I got around to that side of the table. Something you don’t want to do normally. You don’t want want to bias another tasters taste buds before they get there. I was a funny moment. The bad taste I described as a bad jelly belly. I’m not sure what kind specifically. Ya know, like booger or dirt. You’re looking for s’more or cookies and cream but instead you get dirt! Sidomo also had a sample that was mint chocolate. I picked up some toasted marshmallow, and smokiness in another. Like wood you smoke meat with not cigarette smoke. Smokie, not charcoal.
This was a fun experience for me. A landmark one too. With some more experimenting I’ll eventually host my own cupping and coffee party some day.
I’ve finally leveled up to Amateur Coffee Snob 1. It’s kinda like Private First Class or Corpral not really sure where I am on the coffee snob spectrum.
Thanks agian Michelle and Kevin!