Clink! Sluuurrp! Spit!
Ahhh, the glamorous sounds of cupping coffee. Much like wine tasting, the art of cupping coffee is as loud as it is fun. After pouring hot water over a freshly ground batch of coffee, you use a soup spoon to crack the crust of the grinds, bring the liquid up to your nose to draw in the aroma, slurp the liquid loudly across the tongue in order to aerate and experience its flavor in each corner of the mouth and tongue, and finally, spit the sample into a cup if you do not want to risk going into an over-caffeinated head spin.
Even more so than wine tasting, however, coffee cupping (the proper term for evaluating one or more fresh-roasted cup of coffee) has been honed and developed into a highly detailed, rigorous and carefully structured set of guidelines and procedures. Perhaps this should be of no surprise – coffee has more flavor notes than wine (!!) and it’s the second largest commodity in the world, after oil.
It follows therefore that the process of tasting and evaluating coffee for its many merits (or lack thereof) should be a process that can be replicated and relied upon by professionals around the globe.
The History of Coffee Cupping
Professional coffee cupping, or “liquoring,” was first developed in the late 1800’s in San Francisco, CA, as a way for purveyors of green (unroasted) coffee beans to taste and test the quality of the beans. Traders would assess the quality and evaluate the coffee after roasting a sample of the beans in order to make an educated purchase and not be duped into buying subpar coffee.
Coffee Cupping Today
The SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) has since pioneered and codified the gold standard of cupping guidelines for all coffee professionals. The rules and standards are agreed upon and adhered to around the globe, so that coffee can be judged and rated by a panel or by coffee roasters, and all will use the same criteria to cup and evaluate.
Professional coffee cupping is not for the casual coffee consumer – the official SCAA cupping protocol includes some wonderful nuggets such as the directive to have 5 cups of the SAME roasted coffee (all at the same table) so that the coffee cupper can determine if the coffee tastes and smells consistent across all 5 cups and is not just a fluke.
Another directive – to grind coffee in the grinder and trash those beans just to be sure the sample with be pristine. “Each cup of sample should be ground by running a cleansing quantity of the sample through the grinder,” instructs the SCAA guidelines, “and then grinding each cup's batch individually into the cupping glasses, ensuring that the whole and consistent quantity of sample gets deposited into each cup. A lid should be placed on each cup immediately after grinding.”
So where does that leave you, me, and other people who just simply LOVE COFFEE and would like to delve even deeper into the awesomeness of the coffee we buy?
Read on; all is revealed in our next blog, Cupping Coffee at Home.
And remember, don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly through email or our website with any questions about coffee selection and brewing methods. We love to help people achieve maximum Joy with each sip.
Aharon’s first ever cupping session embedded with the farmers in Boquete, Panama, Jan 2014. Read more about it here.