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James Hoffmann's World's Largest Coffee Tasting Event 2020 - My Thoughts

Updated: Nov 23, 2020

What is World's Largest Coffee Tasting?

For those who don't know, The World's Largest Coffee Tasting event is organised by James Hoffmann and Square Mile Coffee Roasters. All of the coffee samples used in the event are sourced and roasted by Square Mile, and shipped to all the participants globally. As James Hoffmann said in the live session, they shipped a whopping 17,500 kits all over the world. I think this is a phenomenal job!

We did not receive the coffee kits in time for the scheduled live event and hence had to plan a separate local event for it, delayed by a couple of weeks.

We finally held a Zoom event on Saturday 17th October, where friends joined from all over India.

After half an hour of pre-preparation, the James Hoffmann video was played, and we followed James' instructions.

What's in the Kit?

The Square Mile Coffee Cupping Kit (nope the plant was not part of it)

The tasting kit costed roughly around $17 (kit + shipping included). Each sample was 30gm, and the sealed packs with CO2 escape valves were neatly tucked in a very hard cardboard brown box. The moment I got my kit in hand, I couldn't stop admiring all the effort and dedication that went into planning this kit. This shows that James and Square Mile team was not doing it for profit, but for pure love of coffee and wanting people around the world to participate in the joys of brewing and appreciating fresh coffee at home.

The kit included:

  • A card with instructions for pre-preparation

  • 30 gms samples of five different coffees labelled as A, B, C, D, E

  • a coffee grind size sample in a clear plastic packaging for reference

  • Two sachets of Third Wave Water

  • A 3D cutout of the Square Mile Griffin - A happy surprise!

Coffees in the Tasting

Coffee A: La Bolsa - Finalist of Cup of Excellence and Rainforest Alliance certified
  • Country: Guatemala

  • Region: La Libertad, Huehuetenango

  • Producer: Maria Vides

  • Harvest: December – February

  • Varieties: Caturra and Bourbon

  • Process: Washed

  • Alititude: 1800m

Coffee B: El Vendaval
  • Country: Costa Rica

  • Region: Tarrazu

  • Producer: Ricado Calderon

  • Harvest: December – February

  • Varieties: Catuai

  • Process: White Honey

  • Alititude: 1900m

Coffee C: Aricha
  • Country: Ethiopia

  • Region: Idido, Yirgcheffe

  • Producer: Various Smallholders Around Aricha Washing Station

  • Harvest: November – January

  • Varieties: Regional Landraces

  • Process: Washed

  • Alititude: 1850 – 1800m

Coffee D: Refisa
  • Country: Ethiopia

  • Region: West Arsi

  • Producer: Various Smallholders of West Arsi Region

  • Harvest: November – December

  • Varieties: Welisho and Kurume

  • Process: Natural

  • Alititude: 1950m

Coffee E: Kaweri Turaco
  • Country: Uganda

  • Region: Mubende

  • Producer: Kaweri Coffee Plantation

  • Harvest: November – March

  • Varieties: Robusta

  • Process: Washed

  • Alititude: 1200 – 1350m

Signing Up For The Tasting - A Journey

When I got to know that James Hoffmann is doing World's Largest Coffee Tasting event, I knew I had to be a part of it. I admire James for all the good work he's doing through his coffee videos on YouTube. This was a very small way to connect with one's coffee idol, but it meant a lot to me. There was no time to spare as I wanted to join the 2020 LIVE event.

I asked my friends and members of STB team for help. Everyone sprung up to help in the "Coffee call". One friend setup a WhatsApp chat group for all those who wanted to be part of the event. Team A took the orders from everyone, and did a bulk order of 17 kits. Team B worked on the logistics department (receive the kits at ground zero, separate the kits for individuals, and ship them to all over India)

We put our orders before the first batch of kits sold out, and then we sat back and waited with bated breath for 16th September to arrive - the day when kits were to be shipped by Square Mile Roasters.

16th September came and went - nothing.

17th September - still no news.

Our coffee group started worrying, as there was no news of delays either on Square Mile or James Hoffmann social media pages.

Concern on shipping delay was obvious due to the fact that international shipping is not a smooth process when it reaches customs in India, specially when we have been Wuhanned by 2020. It can take two days or indefinitely longer depending on the customs mood.

The clock kept ticking, and so we all waited with bated breath.

Finally on 21st September we got the news that kits have been shipped, and I was joyous as there was still 2 weeks to LIVE event, and hoped that the kits would reach us on time.

The shipment reached Delhi customs on 23rd September and stayed stuck with them till 6th October.

The day of Live Coffee Tasting came and went away. We didn’t get the chance to do be part of the live event. So it was decided that we all will be doing coffee tasting over a Zoom call.

Final Thoughts & Conclusion

I've never done a cupping event before, let alone a blind one. It was an exciting two hours from pre-preparation, cupping, to discussion with friends. A huge shoutout to James Hoffmann & his team at Square Mile Roasters for carefully designing the samples in a way that tasting would become a breeze for someone as new to cupping as me. That we got to sample coffees from some of the best coffee producing regions in one kit was a bonus!

This event has given me a perspective of what to look for when I'm trying out new coffees. Coffee tasting is something which is easily repeatable at home and cupping 3 or 4 different samples at a time helps in contrasting the differences and make coffee evaluation that much more effective.

Last but not the least, I would try my best to do it LIVE with James whenever the next event takes place!

A Few Moments Captured

Coffee tasting setup

Our late version of WLCT on Zoom

EDIT - 10th November 2020

A beautiful surprise from Square Mile! Thank you guys

EDIT - 23rd November 2020

And the little surprise is here. Thank you James Hoffmann and Square Mile Coffee Roasters!!

Love your coffees and wish to participate in future cupping events in India? Submit your details here and STB team shall be in touch with you before our next group event.

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