How do you do?
Time to geek out. Mwahahaha (as to why this evil laugh is appropriate?!?). We are talking specialty coffee homies and the fact that you can taste hundreds and thousands (more than you can find in wine I’ve learned) of flavors from the many coffees of the world. Learn a bit more and order your next coffee with intention, this time knowing WHY you selected the Ethiopian over the Nicaraguan coffee!
P.S. Coffee gurus, this probably isn’t for you – the (non)complexity of what ensues may be a bit bleh 😀
Anyway initially, you’ll probably taste, well, coffee. I still do sometimes, hahah! Attending cupping sessions and also trying various coffees at home really helps you to start paying attention to what’s going on on your taste buds. It’s not easy – not at all. Requires quite a bit of attention and concentration. On top of that, those who try many foods tend to be obviously better at this. I mean, how can you spot cranberries versus blackberries in a coffee if you don’t have these fruits on a somewhat regular basis? You digg?
Coffee Flavor Profiles by Origin
In my last post on the Journey from Bean to Cup, you learned about the coffee belt – that middle ‘band’ of space on the planet where coffee grows best, now what we see in the above image is that different regions on this belt (referred to as “origins” in coffee geek lingo) tend to yield more often than not, a certain flavor profile! Pretty neat.
Central American coffees tend to be milder, sweet and generally clean. South American coffee is similar to Central American, also mild with nutty and chocolaty notes. African coffee (my personal favorite), tends to be rich, fruity and floral! While Asian coffees are earthy and are said to be at times savory.
Factors affecting Coffee Flavor Profile
Other than the region itself, a lot of other factors affect the coffee’s flavor;
- The altitude it was grown
- The type of coffee – Arabica/Robusta etc.
- How the coffee is processed/washed
- How it was roasted – light/medium/dark
- How it was ground – fine/coarse and,
- Water quality
If you’re curious, you can certainly have a talk with your barista about the above factors – more so about the ones you can control at home to get the best out of your cup!
Coffee Flavor Profile Chart
Pretty hectic huh? It can seem overwhelming. The flavor wheel above is actually based on the wine tastser’s flavor wheel. Essentially, this wheel takes some of the commonly recognized flavors in coffee and relates them back to what causes them.
So how do you dig deeper? How do you learn to find these flavors? As mentioned prior, it will take practice. What’s best is actually tasting coffees side by side, this way you can then notice the subtleties in the different coffees. Tasting by origin is best as one particular origin’s taste tends to be clearer than when tasting a blend of origins.
Cupping sessions are great, because you don’t have to purchase a whole bunch of different origins…but if you’re really getting into this stuff, buying three or four different coffees is definitely better than paying to attend a whole lot of different cupping sessions.
Freshly ground coffee is always best. The scent and taste is way more prominent. Using the fresh coffee (in bean form) within two weeks is usually best. Ask your local coffee shop to grind your coffee for your preferred home brewing method – grinding at home is also obviously an option – and better at that as it’s freshly ground for every cup. I love this site coffee gear like grinders.
The process of tasting coffee is unlike that in wine tasting. Particularly a spoon is used and you taste the coffee using a “slurping” method – a very loud slurp at that lol! Have a look at this video.
Looking at the coffee flavor wheel definitely helps to notice the potential flavors that you may get in your coffee – it’s so often a tip-of-the-tongue moment and looking at the wheel often gives a bit of a ‘aha’ moment. You can download this Counter Culture one here for print 😉
Last important tip is to wait for your coffee to cool down just a bit – you won’t be able to tell much from a really hot cup!
And so those are the basics to getting your palette to taste apples and berries in that coffee! Fun? I think so!! Who loves coffee and has mastered identifying flavors? Or are you happy with just the “coffee” taste? Or maybe you’re a tea person? Let me know in the comments.