I've consumed quite a bit of coffee in my life, but this was my first coffee cupping. If you don't know what a cupping is, I'll work through it in the blog, but it's essentially a method coffee roasters use to evaluate the coffee. The flavors and aromas brought out in a cupping are more intense than your average cup of coffee.
They measured out 8 different beans. 6 samples from Four Barrel and two from Twenty-Below Coffee. Four Barrel roasts out of San Francisco, and Twenty Below is the local shop where I was cupping. Each cup was labeled with a number, and we didn't know which bean was which during the cupping. They gave me a comment sheet, as well as a tasting wheel for all the intricate scents + tastes you could possibly pick up on. I wasn't very good at first.
The first step is smelling the coffee dry. With our clipboards in hand, we went around cup-by-cup and stuck our noses in the coffee. Okay, not literally, but we got pretty close. My sniffing ability isn't stellar, so I was just noting how fruity or not the coffee smelled. I did get better throughout the cupping, though. If I said something like, "Whoa, this smells like some fruit.", they would say something like, "Whoa, I get a slight hint of lemon, raspberry, and a spot of caramel apple." I hope to reach this point in my smelling abilities. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Next we wet the grounds with hot water and repeated the same smelling technique. The water brought out new scents in the coffee, so it was easier to mark down what I was smelling.
Next we broke the crust in the coffee grounds thathad formed at the top. Using a spoon, we stabbed into the layer of grounds, twisted the spoon, and took a whiff of the bottom side of the spoon that had just been in contact with the coffee. This was the easiest to smell out of all the methods. After this, we pushed the grounds to the edge, and they sank below the surface.
Now it was time to actually taste the coffee. Using the same spoons that sat in a glass of hot water, we filled the spoon half way, and lifted it to our lips. Ty instructed me to forget about everything my mother had told me about how to drink something. He brought it to his mouth and slurrrrrped the coffee as obnoxiously as possible. I tried it, and it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. The flavors within were drastically contrasted from anything I had ever tasted in coffee. If it was fruity, I could actually guess a specific fruit. I don't think it has ever been as easy to grab the subtle notes of flavor as it was while cupping. I've since done some cupping of my own, and it's much more fun. I wish slurping that loud was acceptable to do in public.