Saturday, December 11, 2010

Coffee Cupping at Detour

In the last edition of this week's spotlight, the pivotal practice of

Coffee Cupping

A technique used to evaluate the aromas and flavour profile of roasted beans, and to determine defects. Sometimes used to ween out bad beans or to even to create their own blend. Taking samples at different roasting points can pin point the exact roast time to bring out certain flavours. It's all about the roaster and how well they know their craft.

It's important to keep coffee relative; meaning that testing different regions side to side and picking out what they enjoyed best from that particular region is all part of the fun. Be it the subtle hits of bergamont, juiciness of a grapefruit, to the sharp earthy tones of Sumatra, the roasting process that will allow these features to shine through.

As the cupping table started to line up with 9 different origins from the coffee growing belt, we embraced ourselves for a great exploration of flavours up ahead. Detour believes in compensating farmers what they deserve, and will often pay a premium for lots - typically much higher than fair-trade, or commodity prices.

Quality beans means quality products, and these boys don't mess around. They are constantly searching for more sources and discussing with other roasters about incoming harvests.This knowledge that is shared only lends itself to products that are exceptional, and delightful consumption.

Here's the list of beans that were on the table:
Kenya         Karyua Auction Lot - Black Currant, Mandarin
Ethopia       Yirgachaffe Koke - Apricot, Bergamot
Colombia    San Pedro Organic Microlot - Tangerine, Fig, toasted Almonds
Ethopia       Sidama Ardi - Cherry, Orange, Chocolate
El Salvador Finca La Montana (Pacamara) - Stonefruit, Honey, Tea
Ethopia        Keffa/ Sidamo - New edition?!
Costa Rica  Helsar de Zacero West Valley Microlot - Chocolate, Stonefruit, Malt
Gautemala   Finca La Perla - Cocoa, Pear
Sumatra      Takengon Aceh - Raisin, Molasses, Herbal
Detour Dark Roast - BOLD
As the beans are ground to slighter larger than french press, we use our noses and take in the aromas that each cup has to offer. We note them down, and we start the steeping process. Using 204F (which translates to 202F once it hits the bowls and grinds), the brewing begins. As a thick crust starts to form, the aromas once experienced after grinding are left trapped beneath anxiously awaiting for some cupper to break the surface and release those fragrant molecules to tease our noses and make our mouth's water.
Kaelin breaks the crust and whaffs in the extracted flavours.

 As we run through all 9, we remove the grounds and start the actual tasting. Using wide shallow spoons, we aspirate the golden liquid such that it evenly coats the tongue/ palette. By aspirating we allow some of the coffee droplets to reach the throat and subsequently the nasal passage, to give a full experience. Allowing our nose to participates heightens the aromas that are circulating in the air and within our mouth.
We start to move from lightest to darkest/strongest flavours and use descriptors such as: sweet, acidic, chocolate, berry, citrus, thick, earthy etc.. Going from cup to cup, it is essential to compare notes that were highlighted (at which point we'll compare once cooled down) and start to jot what was experienced.
Now you can drink all of the coffee that is slurped - but don't fret, you can spit out, to avoid the over caffeinated state.

By allowing cuppers to experience so many different bean types in one go, it's more of a humble educational session. Becoming a good cupper takes regular practice, and a willingness to learn, grow and develop the roasts. After this cupping I realized I was more hyper aware of the softer notes found in the lighter coffees. A lesson learned is knowledge gained.



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