If you’ve ever been in our shop in the early morning hours you’ve probably thought to yourself, “…what’s that sound??” And upon seeing several of us standing around the production area slurping like a bunch of toddlers eating soup you’ve probably wondered, “what on earth are they doing??” I’ll explain.
Coffee professionals—especially roasters—use a method of tasting called “cupping” to evaluate different coffees. To be honest, it's not a great way to enjoy coffee. Basically, coffee grounds go straight into a small bowl and boiling water is poured on top. Once enough time has passed, a crust that forms on top (like in a French press) which is "broken" and skimmed off. From that point everyone tastes the coffee with a spoon (a special coffee tasting spoon, of course) and slurps the coffee. The bowls containing coffee stay put on the table the whole time.
So, why is this the preferred ritual for evaluating coffees? The main reason is repeatability. The whole brewing process is stripped down to the simplest possible method so it can be easily replicated every time. This ensures all the coffees are on an even playing field so differences in flavor, body, and acidity are all equally evaluated as traits of the coffee versus differences in the ways they each was brewed. We remove all the song and dance of pour overs, batch brewers, and other manual/filter brew methods create a quick and easy way to brew, taste, and share coffees.
Cupping was originally a way for coffee buyers to taste-test many coffees of a particular region at once. Today its usefulness extends to all types of coffee buyers, roasters, coffee educators, baristas, farmers, and even to coffee enthusiasts who decide to attend a coffee cupping.
If you’re interested in coming to a cupping and seeing what it’s all about you can check our website for dates/times and sign up—we usually do a couple per month. If not at least now you know what we’re slurping about when you have to turn your headphones up.
By Doug Stone, Corvus Trainer