Updated: Jul 31, 2020
One of the most fascinating aspects of the speciality coffee movement is the discovery that coffee beans can naturally provide a complex blend of literally thousands of possible flavours, which together produce a range of sensory experiences.
Image: A coffee taster during a coffee cupping (source: blog.equalexchange.coop)
The sensory profile of a cup of coffee varies according to a number of factors: the type and blend of coffee beans; geographical source; roasting method; and method of preparation.
Ever since the concept of speciality coffees emerged in the new millennium, industry professionals have focused on each stage of speciality coffee process till it reaches us – from coffee farming, processing, to coffee selection, and then to roasting and finally brewing a cup.
The amount of information produced on each of these aspects in the past two decades is fascinating and makes for very interesting reading.
Image: A coffee taster’s flavour wheel (source: counterculturecoffee.com)
Professional coffee tasters, usually certified from reputed institutes, have a palate as distinguished as a sommelier and can keenly identify coffee quality via cupping, a systematic tasting & evaluation process of brewed coffees. Coffee tasters typically evaluate a coffee bean based on the following five characteristics:
How much sweetness does the coffee have? This is a very desirable characteristic.
How acidic is the coffee? And how pleasant is this acidity?
Does the coffee have a tea-like light, delicate mouthfeel or is it more of a rich, creamy, heavy cup?
A myriad of tastes & flavor occur in a cup but are they harmonious? Does one aspect dominate the cup?
This is not just about describing the flavours & aroma of a coffee but how pleasant the taster finds them.
Coffees are ranked and scored on above factors and typically any coffee with a score of 80 or more is termed a specialty coffee.
Recently an Indian coffee bean varietal from a microlot in Andhra Pradesh was rated with an average score of 90.5 at an annual international coffee tasters meet. To my knowledge, this is the highest rated Indian single origin coffee to date.