September 27, 2021•945 words
Connect this to my tasting sop. It seems like I'm following the same structure (atomic elements, vocabulary, conversation) as the mimic method.
- More investment: intentionally taste two coffees side by side
- Goal: Find the coffee variables you enjoy (e.g. body, brightness/acidity, finish, sweetness, aroma, basic flavor)
The goal of this step is to be able to understand and speak about coffee without difficulty. We can break this down into four smaller steps: simple conversation (knowing just enough to get by, using the most common 20% words that accurately describe 80% of what you're tasting), scripted conversation (using the right words to regular convey certain meanings, being able to answer the most common questions about your experience), spontaneous conversation (speaking as much as possible about coffee until you feel comfortable and confident saying something that comes to mind about the coffee) and sophisticated conversation (fine-tuning the details in your descriptions).
- try two coffees against each other (same method). try four coffees against each other (same method?). It's easier if you have someone to do this with.
- Sample them side-by-side, and take careful note of the differences. Write down how you would describe those differences, or chat about it with a friend.
- Use the notecards or the app to try and guess the origin. Even I only get this right about half the time, so don’t expect to be hitting 90% your first day. Now, when you’re tasting coffees and trying to describe what makes them different, what you’re doing is “building your vocabulary“. I put that in quotes because it’s something you’ll hear a lot. This vocabulary will help you describe what you taste and share/compare that experience with others, but it’s also going to have its own quirks. I have childhood memories of eating honeysuckle, and it’s a common floral note that I get in coffee. I don’t expect someone who grew up in a different climate to share that association. Likewise, my co-founder Abby is Philippino and grew up eating pickled mango, papaya, and jackfruit. When I get those flavors, I just say it tastes “tropical”. I can’t get more specific than that, but she can discern different varietals and ripeness of mango. We’re all a little unique (some more than others). ? (source: https://angelscup.com/blog/taste/the-beginners-guide-to-angels-cup/)
Session 2: Comparing Coffees and Basic Vocabulary
- Buy two very different coffees. It doesn’t hurt to ask your local roaster/shop for guidance on this.
One easy exercise for your tongue is to taste several variations of the same thing. With coffees, we might taste a few different varieties of beans all prepared the same way, or try beans across different regions, the way we might do a wine tasting of one grape from a few different areas.
Buy two small french presses. As small as you can get really.
Brew two small cups of each coffee. You could obviously do this with bigger presses and bigger cups, but I hate the idea of wasting good coffee or promoting overconsumption.
Let them cool a little bit. It is much easier to discern the flavours when coffee has cooled a little bit. [what temperature?]
Start to taste them alternately. Take a couple of sips of one coffee before moving on. Start to think about how the coffee tastes compared to the other. Without a point of reference this is incredibly difficult.
Focus on textures first. To start with focus on things like the mouthfeel of the two coffees. Does one feel heavier than the other? Is one sweeter than the other? Does one have a cleaner acidity than the other?
Don’t read the labels as you taste. Instead note down a handful of words about each coffee. When you are done compare what you have to the roaster’s descriptions. Can you see now what they are trying to communicate about the coffee?
Don’t worry about flavours. ‘Worry’ is the key word here. Flavours are the most intimidating part of tasting, as well as the most frustrating. Roasters use flavours not only to describe particular notes – such as “nutty” or “floral” – but also to convey a wide range of sensations. Describing a coffee as having “ripe apple” notes also communicates expectations of sweetness and acidity. If you do identify individual flavours – great! Note it down! If not then don’t worry. Any words or phrases that describe what you are tasting qualify as being useful – random words or flavours.
GOAL: I want them to noting the differences between coffees, to really feel like they can describe them in terms of body, acidity/brightness, finish, aroma, but not necessarily flavor.
- Quit Smoking I'm not trying to be preachy about it (that's your mom's job), but smoking does not only dull your sense of taste, but also your sense of smell, which is in large part what clues your tatesbuds in on what they're experiencing when you go in for the kill on that perfect slice of pizza or hand-crafted small-batch Scotch.
Sweetmarias | Teaching to Taste
WOLFF WEEKLY VLOGG 016 | Peter Wolff talks Identifying Flavours in Coffee
Jimseven - 8 Steps to Develop your Coffee Palate
Blue Bottle Guide to Coffee Tasting
In order to be a better taster, you simply have to taste (and smell) more stuff. For the next few weeks, try to slow down for a second as you go about your eating life. Hold things on your tongue a bit longer than you normally would—whole foods.