Cupping is a standardized way to evaluate your coffee to observe its flavours and aromas. While it is a professional job, any coffee lover can do it when having a cup of coffee to enjoy and discover the flavours of coffee and appreciate it.
Pooja Baid, proprietor, Piccadilly Square, takes you through the basics.
A good cup of coffee can make my day and I often find myself saying, “this is my kinda coffee”. It’s difficult to elaborate and make others understand what that means but I know it as soon as I sip it. Fortunately, coffee experts understood the pain of not finding the right words and developed a special terminology for expressing coffee characteristics. I was totally blown away when I learnt that there could be close to 800 discernible flavour characteristics in coffee. These characteristics being inherent in the bean itself, not an “add-on” by a barista at the coffee shop. It might sound baffling till you actually start cupping and understanding these characteristics.
Coffee experts have grouped these characteristics into 4 categories that more or less cover them all.
The first characteristic is aroma or the smell of coffee once brewed. Compared to the other elements of cupping, this is the most subtle. It gives a preview to what the coffee will taste like. The aroma may be smoky, fruity, nutty, herbal, spicy, or floral.
Acidity is the sharpness of coffee on the tongue. The noticeably tart flavour which makes coffee distinct. A coffee with low acidity is described as ‘smooth’, while a high-acidity coffee is called ‘bright’. A coffee that is too acidic is ‘astringent’ and unpleasant.
The body of a coffee is how it sits on your tongue, whether it is heavy and long-lasting, or light and fleeting. It is often also called “mouthfeel”.
Flavour is a combination of taste and smell, and can be described as the overall perception of coffee. The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)’s Flavor Wheel offers a full descriptive glossary for coffee flavours. What was once merely “strong” can now be “warming, with notes of cedar and clove.”
The great thing about these tools is that they form a common language and foundation for appreciating coffee. It takes several cupping sessions and a keen interest to understand them, before they become a part of your coffee drinking experience. So, the next time you reach for your cuppa, take a moment to experience it in totally. It has changed the way I think of coffee and am pretty sure it will change yours.
( Coffee pictures sourced from Pixabay)