Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to Taste Coffee

Image from Starbucks
Coffee is more than a drink, more than a social playing card and more than your morning/afternoon/evening jolt. It's an experience. No, I'm not a connoisseur of coffee; I don't sit in grand cafes sipping different blends and postulating on the mild notes. I actually only enjoy 1 cup a week, on Sunday mornings with my husband. And that is why it's so much more, coffee is an experience.
How many of us keep wine journals? Documenting tasting notes, and vineyard information? Do you also add little sides about who we drank it with, and where we were? One could do the same for coffee. Maybe it's a standing date with your girlfriends every Sunday morning, or catching up with a colleague during the work week, your coffee is part of that conversation. Why not choose it with the same awareness we choose our wine? Per oz can be just as expensive, so why not savour it the same way?
Here's how:
1. Smell- Cup your hand over your coffee mug opening and inhale deeply through your nose. What do you notice? Describe the aroma.
2. Slurp- By slurping you spray the coffee across your entire palate, enabling the subtle flavours and aromas to reach all the tasting zones of your tongue.
3. Feel- As you taste the coffee, identify where you are experiencing the flavours on your tongue. Note the weight of the coffee on your tongue.
4. Describe- Use descriptive words to express the characteristics of the aroma, the flavour and the way the coffee felt in your mouth.

Terms:
Aroma- The way the coffee smells. Descriptive terms for aroma can include earthy, spicy, floral, and nutty
Acidity- This is not the pH of the coffee, at least not directly. Acidity refers to the degree to which the coffee cleanses your palate. Are you left with a clear feeling on your tongue after a drink, or do flavours linger? Think of this as similar to eating a lemon, the lemon's acidity cleanses your palate.
Body- Body is the weight of the coffee, not the strength of the flavour as some assume. A light body will feel light in your mouth, while a full coffee will feel heavier. This is similar to the feel of skim milk versus homogenized milk in your mouth; skim is lighter while the thicker milk coats your mouth.
Flavour- The taste of the coffee. This is a combination of the aroma, acidity and body of the coffee.

Coffee can be paired with food, just like wine can. Try different combinations of coffee and chocolate, nuts, cheeses and fruits.

For more information on coffee tasting check out this very descriptive article.
Try it out for me. In the comment section I'm going to post my thoughts on tasting Starbucks' Casi Cielo coffee this morning in my coffee tasting lesson. Feel free to add yours once you've tried your next coffee.

1 comment:

Jade said...

Casi Cielo- Starbucks
During my own lesson on tasting coffee, we sampled Starbucks' Casi Cielo Medium roast.
It was ground as french press (as requested to the Barista). The acidity was refreshing, but not too sterile. The aroma included cocoa, and some said florals which I couldn't pick up on. The weight was medium and felt solid but not intensely so on the tongue.
We paired it nicely with fresh raspberries, which brought out the freshness of the coffee. We also paired it with brownies and cream cheese icing (chocolate and soft cheese) which intensified the sweetness and boldness of the chocolate brownie.