“Coffee cupping” isn’t, as you may expect, the art of putting coffee in cups. It’s actually the art of tasting coffee, and experts train their palates in the same way as wine tasters to pick up nuances and overtones in the drink.
Coffee buyers and blenders use cupping to evaluate different coffee beans, and to understand what goes into making the perfect blend. It’s also used to help decide what beans will be suitable for what type of brew or drink, for example to differentiate espresso beans from a milder tasting bean.
As with any type of evaluation, consistency is key so it’s important you use the same approach each time. As coffee changes according to geographical region, climate, season and a range of other factors, commercial cuppers taste the coffee beans from each crop to ensure consistency in their blends.
Professional cuppers prefer all their samples to be roasted lightly, so that the taste isn’t masked by strong flavours, and may also insist on having samples of green, roasted and ground beans to help assess quality.
The tasting table will look similar to a wine tasting table, with samples of beans set out in individual bowls and glasses of water to clear the palate between tastings. Tasters will often brew the coffee by the simplest method possible, infusion, then taste the fresh coffee sparingly and take detailed notes before moving on to the next sample.
Although few of us need to go to such lengths to find out what we enjoy, this method of comparing coffee encourages thought and may help you appreciate the more subtle qualities of what’s in the cup.
If you’d like to try something a little different, we offer sample packs of all our coffee beans. For more information, visit our coffee beans page at www.wholesalecoffeecompany.co.uk.