#71 – Tasting Notes and Tasting Coffee

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cupping table

Once again, while browsing online, I stumbled upon an instagram account of one coffee enthusiast. The post was saying “I didn’t taste strawberries, but chocolate and lime were there” – and a pictire of a coffee bag from one respected roaster.

I like specialty coffee, cause it is simple, at first glance, especially when you are a coffee enthusiast or geek, and then it gets more and more complicated, the longer you are in the industry.

Putting tasting notes on the coffee bags. An endless dilemma.

If a roaster doesn’t put them – it’s hard for the customer to choose which coffee to buy. They start smelling the bags to figure out what to take home.

If a roaster puts tasting notes on the packaging – there are 2 situations that are coming.

First, there will be people who will say that they didn’t taste roses, strawberry and toffee in that coffee – but tasted lime and dark chocolate. Ok.

Second, will be those who will taste everything like it is said on the packaging.

In both cases, it has nothing to do with the coffee tasting itself, and everything to do with your brain playing games with you. You read about the tasting notes – you gonna be looking for the proof. Because everybody likes to be right. You gonna find the proof (that they are wrong or right, doesn’t matter),  or you gonna invent the proof.  You already know how the coffee should taste – so, and it’s incredible – you are not going to actually taste it.

That’s where the complex part of specialty coffee comes in.

Although eating and drinking is something that we are doing daily, it definitely doesn’t mean that we are good at it. Because to become good at something – at anything, sports, languages, the job that you are doing – you have to dedicate your time and effort to it with 100% attention. Consciously.

And now remember, when was the last time you were eating or drinking consciously? Thinking about the taste, trying to remember it, to carve it in your memory? Is it how you usually eat?

No, right?

That’s why it is no surprising that it’s hard to taste coffee or wine. It requires, firstly, lots of experience of conscious eating, that will empower you with some sort of “library” of tastes.

And then, that’s where the experience comes in. The coffee will taste differently at different extractions and TDS. In different methods of preparation.  So, here comes the cherry on top of the cake – the tasting notes on the packaging are the cupping tasting notes.

Wanna taste them? Train your palate, remember how different food tastes, and then cup the coffee.  Don’t make espresso, or french press, or V60, or I don’t know what else – cup it.

There is no other way.

Tasting coffee is a skill, like others, and has to be trained. It is not something that everybody knows how to do because everybody has taste buds. No.

Tasting coffee means learning to listen and to interpret your senses, and not to let your brain fool you (and it will try, in many ways).

P.S. what else influences on taste – water composition, water temperature, method of preparation, what you ate, if you smoked, etc

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