You may have noticed over the last couple of weeks Alexarc Mastema, roaster extraordinaire, sitting down with several members of the staff to enjoy some coffee. We have been incredibly privileged to have him share his time and expertise with us. Now let me share a little of what we’ve been doing with you!
The Black Drop staff have been participating in what is known as a “cupping”. This is a very ritualized way to serve and taste coffee to make it easier to detect aroma, flavors, body and acidity. We use this information to give you the most specific tasting notes that we can on all our coffees, and this process is used throughout the coffee world.
I want to talk a little bit about the ritual of cupping before I get into exactly why we do it at the Black Drop and why it’s so important. The process of cupping is going to be pretty similar no matter where you go. You’ll likely find several small glasses filled with a small amount of coffee, a water pitcher, a cupping spoon (a normal spoon works just fine. Professionals use a silver spoon because it transfers heat better!), a spit cup (as you will not actually be drinking any of this coffee. I know, crazy talk, right?), and a cup of water for washing off your spoon.
There are many aspects of aroma and flavor to analyze during a cupping, and I have found that it’s usually best to deal with them one at a time. You start with the dry aroma, smelling the grounds before water is added. This is followed by the wet aroma, which involves one of the best parts of cupping, the breaking of the crust. When you brew directly into your cup as you do with during a cupping, the coffee forms a crust at the top of your cup (kind of like a french press, except you’ll be drinking out of this cup!). When you break the crust, a wave of aroma is released that is very potent but extremely short lived. This is one of my favorite parts of cupping!
After you get the wet aroma, you scoop as much of the coffee grounds off the surface of the brew as you can. You are always going to get some grounds, which is one of the reasons why that spit cup is there! Next comes tasting, and to do that you have to slurp your coffee. You slurp right off your spoon because it aerates the coffee and spreads it to all parts of your tongue, giving you the most balanced profile. The things you are tasting for at this point are Acidity, Body, Sweetness, and Finish. I’ll go into these all a bit more in a later post.
One thing I would like to add is that there are no wrong answers when cupping. Everyone tastes things differently, and one of the best parts of doing a cupping is coming together at the end and sharing what YOU tasted in each coffee and then comparing that to others. Cuppings can be a bit messy, even a bit uncouth with all that slurping and spitting going on. I’ve always found that cuppings are most enjoyable when everyone has fun!
That brings us back to the beginning and why we at the Black Drop are so excited doing these cuppings. We are really passionate about a lot of things at the Black Drop, but none more so than our customers and our coffee. Cuppings really let us bring those two things together by giving you the most accurate portrayal of the excellent coffees we carry from Maniac Roasting, and help us to provide you with the coffee that you are most likely to enjoy.
So, keep an eye out for Alexarc or John running staff cuppings in the future and feel free to come up and ask us questions! We are always willing to share our experiences with our customers! Also, keep an eye out! We’ll be doing public cuppings in the not too distant future!