If you live in Memphis, TN, and more specifically the Whitestation area, you MUST attend one of our WEEKLY cuppings!
Each and every Friday at the Ugly Mug Cafe on the corner of Poplar and Perkins, we hold public cuppings. We take you, the customer, "behind the scenes" so to speak, and give you a glimpse into what our roasting experts do back at our labs! This is much more than a taste test. If you're familiar with wine tasting, or the process that beer brewers go through, you'll be right at home.
When our roasting experts "cup," they're deciding a multitude of things before a particular type of coffee is chosen for roasting. And eventually, that particular coffee, if it's good enough will be placed on the market for sale. They're deciding first, how many "defects" the certain batch has, how to roast the beans (from light to dark), which type of grind to use, the best brewing methods to bring out the maximum flavor & body, THEN we move on to tasting...
But before we get ahead of ourselves... you've got to smell the grounds! This is where you get some awsome aromas hitting you right in the face. Our roast experts use a chart to correctly profile the smells. You'll be amazed at some of the notes you get, ranging from fruits to nuts, earthy smells to sweet... the range is phenomenal!
Now it's time to actually taste the ultimate brew. There's even a process, which is almost ritualistic, that you must go through before you can take the first sip. It invloves pouring hot water evenly around the coffee grounds until it reaches the top of the cup. From there you take your spoon and gently dip down on top of the grounds. We call this "breaking the crust." Time to take another sniff... What do you smell?
(*SIDE NOTE: There are many different ways to brew coffee. In fact brewing is an entire world in and of itself. Entire books and trainings have been developed in this one area alone. When "cupping," we not only take a traditional pot of hot water to soak the grounds, but we also use various methods of brewing. When in the lab, we usually test out several methods and score each one against each other in the end for the best results. For example we may use a French Press with varying roasts from light to dark. Then repeat the process using an AeroPress(which has HUGE benefits). Using different methods gives us a wide range of smells, flavors, body, and after-tastes in the finished product. As you can see below in the picture, the exact same coffee & roast-type was brewed using a Frecnch Press VS a Vacuum Pot... We ended up with two different colors, smells, tastes, etc. all from the using different brew methods...)
(Cont. from above...) From here we take two spoons and gently scoop the grounds from the top of the cup and dispose of them. They're no longer needed. Rinse your spoons off, ensure you don't have anymore grounds left in the coffee (depending on your brew method you'll have some residue left at the bottom. Now you're ready to take your first sip! We'll be producing some info/videos on the correct way to sample the finished product. For now we'll just have to try and describe it here...
Take your spoon and get a sample of coffee, just enough to sip. Blow on it, it's going to be extremely hot and you don't want to scold your tongue... if you do how the heck will you get any use out of it for cupping?! LOL! This next part is VERY important! Don't take a sip like you're trying to "taste for enjoyment" it (I know that sounds crazy). You're tasting to produce a flavor profile, which is the idea behind this entire process. You literally take a quick "slurp." This ensures the coffee evenly coast your pallette so you can get an accurate profile. Also, you're not only looking to find the hints of various flavors, but also identify the "body" of the particular coffee. The body of coffee can range from light to full, and even a "silky" body.
This (in a big enough nutshell) is how to "cup" coffee. This is what we do at our cafe EVERY friday for the world to see! Of course much more goes on back at our labs, but when you come out and experience of our events for yourself, you'll have a pretty good idea of what goes on behind closed doors...
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