Coffee cupping is becoming more popular, with many roasters offering free public cuppings, and teaching classes on how to cup properly. Coffee cupping has an important role in the coffee industry, but is coffee cupping beneficial to the average coffee drinker?
Cupping is a professional tool used to analyze coffees on a 100-point scale. It is, by design, hyper-critical and very specialized. Cupping is used by importers and roasters to identify coffees of interest as well as identify defects to help make important buying decisions. Roasters also use cupping as a way to compare different roast profiles and choose favorites. Having a highly trained and reliable palette is crucial when coffee is your business.
Seeing a coffee cupping for the first time can be quite intimidating; participants hovering around a table slurping aggressively; scribbling notes. Without a trained palette, hyper-specific flavor notes can be all too daunting. Like anything, it takes practice to understand the nuances of a coffee. Anyone on a coffee career path should grasp the basics to be competent at any level of the supply chain. But, for the average coffee drinker, understanding that coffee is indeed complex, may be enough.
Before seeking out a coffee cupping, think about what you are trying to get out of it. If you are looking for a glimpse into a specialized world, by all means, enjoy the experience. Be weary of overwhelming yourself with scoring a coffee properly, or picking out the nuanced flavors of butterscotch or pomegranate. It helps to isolate one element of a coffee, and compare it others. Perhaps begin with overall flavor. Does it taste good? Think about the aftertaste. Is it pleasant? Does it leave your mouth feeling dry? How is the body? Is it heavy and substantial, or is it thin and tea-like? Silky?
All in all, over-analyzing your coffee may detract from your enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to enjoy your cup. It doesn’t always matter what anyone else thinks. Sometimes even coffee professionals want to simply enjoy without analysis. It’s ok to simply like a coffee.
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