With the coffee harvest in full swing, we have been partaking in several cupping sessions to sample the newly harvested beans.
Cupping is quite a skill and not something that you can necessarily pick up in a short space of time. Like wine tasting, it takes time and a lot of practice to be able to not only perfect the slurping action to draw in enough oxygen to pull out the flavours of the coffee, but also to pinpoint what aromas and flavours you can sense within any given cup. And essentially gives you a good excuse to drink more coffee!
The art of cupping is to be able to recall smells and tastes in your sensory memory, so its justifiable to taste as many different foods and drinks as possible, as it gives you a bigger base from which to recall and retrieve different aromas and flavours which can be found within any given coffee. Through smelling the freshly ground beans to finally tasting a newly brewed coffee, it’s amazing what differences you can pick out.
Cupping is a meticulous process, carried out anonymously and individually in order to ensure no bias or influence. The set up takes time, ensuring a minimum of 2 cups per sample, each weighed out with the correct amount of beans.
This is replicated for each sample before grinding the beans and smelling the aromas.
Following which, the coffees are brewed for exactly 4 minutes before breaking the crust. After a second round of smelling, you are then required to remove any foam which has remained on the surface of the cup. If this remains in the cup then it can have a negative effect for the person cupping the coffee as it can leave a sticky feeling in your mouth.
Finally, then the cupping can really begin. Each person will individually and quietly proceed to taste each of the coffees, trying every single cup, to pinpoint the melange of flavours and identify any defects not only between different coffees but also within the different cups of the same coffee.
According to the Taster’s Flavour Wheel, there are a wide variety of different aromas and flavour notes which can be found within any given coffee. Working from this base, coffee cuppers are able to come together and speak the same language even if they do not actually speak the same language as they are working from the same base.
Different processing methods can bring out different flavour profiles from coffee cherries picked from within the same plantation, purely due to the fact that the beans have been exposed to more or less sugars during fermentation and drying.
Cupping analyses several different categories including fragrance/aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance and sweetness, each scoring a rating out of 10. The scores given to each category are then totalled up to give you a final cupping score out of 100. The higher the score, the better the quality of the coffee. Any coffee scoring above 85 can technically be classified as speciality grade coffee although nowadays some coffee experts have even higher expectations of their coffees.
Coffee Cupping is always an interesting process, giving you new insights into what makes a good quality coffee, and comparing coffees against each other helps to highlight the differences between them. We have a whole bunch of different coffees to cup this week so we will definitely be getting our slurp on! Give it a go and unlock your senses to see what you can find! 🙂