To Cup or Not to Cup, That is the Question
Joining a coffee club introduces you to all sorts of different coffees (naturally), flavours, and words. The words around coffee dance on your tongue as well as the coffee itself. There’s flavour and notes, and there are so many notes, and of course cupping – but what is it exactly?
Is this a special word for those in the know, something that the real coffee connoisseur should know if they’re really worth their salt? When you join a coffee club, it’s important not to feel overwhelmed by the different tastes and flavours, the different methods used for brewing and the equipment used. The words used to describe the various ways of drinking coffee may feel pretty intimidating right now, but it will all fall into place. And there’s no right or wrong way to drinking coffee, you can simply enjoy it for what it is, you’re not in a competition to be the best coffee expert. You’ve joined just like thousands of others, to enjoy a good cup of coffee, and to find out what a really good cup of coffee is all about.
So back to the cupping question, what is it and why do people do it?
No matter what they tell you, cupping isn’t some strange science only the special coffee drinkers know, so don’t be intimated by it. All it is, is a way of trying the coffee so you get the full taste and flavour. There are those that feel you really must be an expert to understand it, and while there’s some truth in this, there’s no reason why you or I can’t try cupping simply as a coffee enthusiast until we’re an expert ourselves.
Let’s find out about the coffee
Cupping is a way of finding and evaluating the different characteristics of different coffee beans, it also helps you to compare against other ones, so you come away with a better understanding of the taste of each coffee you try out.
By cupping you’ll be able taste the flavour better and eventually as you get better at it, be able to distinguish individual beans and the countries they come from. And if that sounds quite possibly the maddest thing you’ve ever heard, then remember that everything worth having takes time to accomplish.
So how is it done?
Use an infusion type of brewing, although this isn’t compulsory, you can use another method. Place the grounds in a small cup or bowl. Pour over very hot but not boiling water and infuse for around 4 minutes.
Smell the coffee and take your time, by doing this you’ll get a better idea of which flavour is which and it give you strong hints on what you should be looking out for. Allow some of the grinds to sink to the bottom and stir away any crust on the top. You can start slurping, yes I know, it sounds absurd, slurping. This is ample opportunity to make some of the most ridiculous noises, take a spoonful and inhale it or suck it, an inhalation is probably a powerful suck. You should be drawing it to the roof of your mouth and then allowing it to fall to the back of your mouth. You’ll create what’s known as a vapour, roll it around your mouth and start to look for those all-important notes. You can either spit out the coffee or swallow it, this is entirely up to you.
What are you looking for?
Well you’re looking for flavour, freshness, does it smell overly roasted, under, does it smell state? What aromas are you picking up? Perhaps some acidity, this is good. Look out for aftertaste and what you find, it could be a combination of things, sweetness, sourness, sharp or bitter and many other aftertastes.
Slurp with confidence
You may be of the view that you wouldn’t be seen out in public slurping coffee loudly, and if you’re a bit of an introvert like myself, you may prefer to do it in the company of close friends with similar likes, or perhaps by yourself, and leave the slurping parties until you’re feeling more confident. There are no hard and fast rules, and you must only do what you feel comfortable with. Coffee should be fun and not hard work, so just enjoy the experience.