Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coffee Cupping at LIT (College)

LIT Espresso Bar (College Location)
Address: 810 College Street
Neighbourhood: College Street, Little Portugal
(website, @litespressobar)

At LIT Espresso Bar on College there's an opportunity to discover the tastes and aromas of coffee through their informal coffee cupping sessions. Typically used for quality assurance, Alex (barista), was able to run through 4 different types of beans from renowned US-roasters Stumptown. Lit is the only cafe in Toronto to have a partnership with Stumptown, so it's an exclusive deal. A Good thing for sure.

The process of coffee cupping involves smelling the beans and tasting them using a taster's wheel (similar to those used by sommeliers) to pinpoint the tastes. During the 4-minute extraction period, the 202-205F water poured from a Hario Kettle and freshly ground beans (French press grinds) starts to form a crust trapping in the aromatic flavours form during the steeping process. At this point the crust is ready to be broken using the back of a pre-heated cupping spoon. Keeping the nose close to the bowl, the crust is pushed down to release the trapped fragrances. This is where the most powerful punch of flavours are located. After the rest of the crust is pushed back, the grinds are removed and the loud slurping ensues. To fully immerse yourself in the tasting, it's best to slurp your spoonful of coffee and create an even spray which coats the entire tongue and tasting palette. As coffee lingers on the tongue attempts to describe the body, mouth feel, sweetness, flavours, acidity, and aftertaste are noted. Usually two cupping bowls are used to ensure that if a bad bean were included in the mix, it would not ruin the cupping process. It didn't really affect the cupping as we worked our way through the coffees at different temperatures.
 
On this day we cupped Hairbender (an espresso blend), Ethopian Yiragachaffe Tumticha, Ethopian Mordecofe organic, and a Guatemala Finca El Injerto Bourbon Varietal. Going from darker to lighter tasting profiles, we gave our taste buds a good workout. Different than when I was at Detour, but still fun to bounce descriptors off of others. The subtle flavours that we experienced when hot, became masked by the stronger acids as we tested during room temperatures. Being able to taste at different time frames allows the tasters to understand the breadth of the bean.We were able to taste earthy tones, citrusy brightness, musky "grandpa's den", balanced apricots, black teas and even light blueberry hints in our coffees. But don't let words inhibit your descriptions, as our taste buds engage all of our senses and memories to allow for a full experience. It's a great exercise to determine what types of coffee are your preference.
Stumptown Bean
Tasting Notes (Hot)
Tasting Notes (Room Temperature)
 Hairbender (secret blend)
 chocolate, sweet citrus, caramel
deep earthy tones, chocolate
 Ethopian Yiragachaffe Tumticha
 light airy pear, and blueberry/
blackberry
crisp black tea (reminds me on unsweetened ice tea), blueberries and a refreshing aftertaste
 Ethopian Mordecofe organic
 mellow earthy-fruit (peach),
floral, nutty, balanced
 musky, buttery nut (cashew), fruit-like, but refreshing.
 Guatemala Finca El Injerto Bourbon Varietal
 chocolate hints, faint lemon (not sour), and floral
light green tea, floral essence and light tea aftertaste

LIT Espresso (810 College Street) holds a informal coffee cupping every Tuesday afternoon at 3pm.

please check on this video of the coffee cupping session with angle media group.

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