Specialty Coffee Cupping Class
Firstly, one must study the organ with which we use to detect the taste modalities. The tongue is an important organ with many receptors, or taste buds, located on four different parts of the tongue: the tip and the sides of the tongue are used to taste saltiness, the tip and the middle region for sweetness, the sourness on the middle region of the two sides (thus explaining the sour sensation on the cheeks when one consumes sour food), and bitterness on the upper region near the throat to serve as a filter, as most bitter flavours can indicate toxic or rotten food.
Coffee cupping is an art of discovering the unique characteristics of each coffee. Using these 4 points, one can indicate the characteristics of the coffee:
1. AROMA The first thing one must look for is the coffee’s aroma. From earthy, spicy, citrusy, nutty or floral, the aroma of the coffee often corresponds with the flavour of the coffee. One must study the fragrance, which refers to the smell of ground coffee prior to contact with hot water, and the aroma, which refers to ground coffee after water has been added. The reason is because sometimes dry coffee can have a strong fragrance which gets lost after water has been added. Smelling the coffee before and after it comes into contact with water is thus crucial.
2. ACIDITY The acidity indicates the sourness of the coffee. Specialty coffee often contains high acidity, as arabica coffee is unique with its acidic and refreshing qualities, though arabica with low acidity can produce a smooth, lingering flavour inside the mouth.
3. BODY When determining the body, look for the weight or the heaviness of the coffee on the tongue, and whether the flavour is light or filling for mouth. Coffee with light bodies carry a light note that does not linger long on the tongue. However, to prevent confusion between the body and the bitterness, a trick to keep in mind is that heavy bodied coffee is pleasing for the palate, but bitter coffee can be unappetizing due to its flavour.
4. FLAVOR When tasting specialty coffee, one would taste delicate flavours of other gourmand, such as chocolate, berries, spices, or even sweetness that resembles honey and caramel. This can be more visible in some coffee than another. By nature, the tongue is full of receptors. Thus, in order to discover the full flavour of the coffee, it is important to ‘slurp’ by drinking the coffee and taking in the air with one’s mouth. This will help the coffee particles to spread to every receptors, in turn helping the taste to better determine each flavour. Slurping is hence one of the first techniques to practice. A tip is to practice by slurping warm water from a spoon.