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Table Chat News for Health, Travel, & Coffee Lovers and Connoisseurs.

Friday, August 21, 2009


How does one presume to hold a coffee tasting?

Well, if you are familiar with wine tastings it is exactly the same except you don't have to worry about who is DRIVING home.

The exact same principals apply to coffee tastings as wine tastings.

Have a few friends bring their coffee makers over to your house. Make sure each person is bringing a unique coffee blend to share. Arabica variety beans would be tasted first and Robusta varieties last.

Why? You always start with the lightest tasting coffees and finish with the heaviest tasting. Just like with wine if you are tasting whites and reds then you would begin with the whites because they are the lightest and least damaging to the palate. If you taste them in reverse the heavier red wine flavors would stick in your mouth more and warp the flavors of the latter light wine tastes... makes sense, eh? Okay so no you know the Arabica varieties are first but which should be first out of those? The lighter roasts should be first and not because they have less strength. They actually have more caffeine as far as strength goes, but the lighter the roast the lighter the taste on the tongue hence it goes first.

Now your friends come over and the ceremonial brewing begins. This is the Cloer coffee maker in silver that my friend uses for these occasions.

Now you can either all go at it at once or you can each take turns. What is nice about brewing one batch at a time is that the aroma of that one pot fills the room and can be judged in a whole additional category. Each person can do the same amount of coffee per equal water amounts to make a direct comparison or each can play with the amounts to provide what they think is the ideal cup of coffee. The latter is for the more advanced baristas or wannabes... and it's more fun too. The competition really begins then much like wine makers creating their elixirs. Fortunately, we only have to wait a few minutes to drink our brews!

Step One: Smell. If only one pot is brewing the group can begin by each person sharing what the brewing smells remind them of. These can be stories, metaphors or simply one or more word answers.

Step Two: Each person has a cup in hand. Dip your nose closely over your cup and inhale and share again. For example: "I smell wood smoke, dark honey, and dirt. It reminded me of the coffee smells in the principal's office when I was a kid." There is no wrong answer to what do you smell and each person is unique and will have their own perception. Everyone is always right in this game.

Step Three: Taste the coffee. Roll it around on your tongue. Suck some air in your mouth with the coffee as you sometimes do with wine to allow the aeration to help open up the flavors on your tongue. Swallow and pay attention to whatever lingering tastes remain or arise at the end of finish as they say in wine tastings. Was it short or did the taste linger longingly after? Was the end note different? Sweet, sour, bitter, and salty are the areas distributed across the tongue and the finish may be quite different from the start. Share your experience like this for example: "It started with a sweet hickory note, then quickly changed to a muddy yet good taste, then at the end it went dry and sour, so I really wanted to take another sip to start the beginning of the sweet taste again."

It is really fun and calming to just focus on each sip and share those momentary experiences with others. You could say it puts you in a zen state of being in the now moment. Hopefully, it is the beginning to a long passion for coffee tasting.



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