Beginner’s Guide to Cupping:
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A word from Geoff Watts, Director of Coffee, Intelligenstia Coffee:
I’m a firm believer that understanding is developed through the act of comparison. Learning to talk about the character of a coffee from a particular origin requires that one have some frame of reference, and if the goal is to figure out what makes a coffee from Kenya great it is important to know what makes it different than other coffees. In other words, what does it mean to taste like a “Kenya”? What tastes distinguish a Guatemalan coffee from a Nicaraguan?
By evaluating coffees in a comparative setting and with an inquisitive, reflective approach one can learn to identify the most essential flavor traits of coffees from different origins. The goal should be to build a reference library of flavors and taste sensations that can become a background against which one can examine new coffees. Over time a cupper will begin to associate particular flavors with geographical regions and different botanical varieties of coffee. Eventually, a phrase like “this tastes like a bourbon from the Santa Ana region in El Salvador” can have some real meaning. It is important to remember, though, that dogma has no place in coffee tasting. Every time I think I’ve got a region figured out, a coffee comes along that shatters my expectations. Keeping an open mind and sense of curiosity is absolutely essential to becoming an accomplished taster.
“There is no mystery to cupping, only endless intrigue.” – gbw