How To Taste & Appreciate Cofffee
A tricky questions, how to taste and appreciate coffee it is. It’s frustrating when you see your friends or maybe someone you met in a coffee event describing coffee like “aroma of jasmine, a strong scene of blueberry with a long floral finish.” Then you are like: What?!
Yea, I definitely understand that feeling. I started out in the coffee industry long ago before specialty coffee was introduced in Malaysia. I always thought I was good since I used to work in quite a few very busy coffee shop. Until I was tasting coffee with some specialty coffee professionals in Singapore.
What?! The same reaction just like yours.
5 Basics of Coffee Tasting
It takes years to develop. And I’m sure there is still a long way for me to go in this coffee flavour exploration journey and life game. But let’s get into the topic, HOW?
First of all, you need to understand that what makes up a cup of coffee. What’s really in it and how can we categorise them. When come to tasting coffee, we’re looking into 5 different areas. These are the 5 areas we are looking for and describing.
Let’s breakdown these 5, ready? Then read on…
Body – this describes the weight and texture of the coffee. How does the coffee feel in your mouth and your tongue? Is it heavy, thick, smooth, creamy, buttery, medium, light or watery? These are some of the words we are using to describe the body of a cup of coffee.
Sweetness – huh? Sweetness in coffee? Yes, you heard me right. There is sweetness in coffee when it’s done right. And this is the beauty of it. We are looking for the level of sweetness in a cup of coffee, whether it’s high or low, good or bad. We then relate the type of sweetness to a flavour, will dive in later below.
Acidity – this is what common crowd usually describe as sour, but in coffee, we are using the word Acidity. It’s hard to imagine acidity in coffee when it remind you of your chemistry teacher in the science lab. But yea, try to think about it, there is acidity in our food, especially citrus fruits such as lemon and orange. That’s what we are talking about when coffee professional describe acidity in coffee.
Finish – also known as after taste. This is a little different from all the above. Finish is the taste, flavour and sensation lingering in our mouth and throat after the coffee is swallowed. You might find some coffee leave a strong aftertaste in your throat and some don’t. This is what actually got me hooked after all.
Finally, flavor – this is an aspect that makes many people scratching their head and got frustrated. You see, we can’t describe flavor on the scale of a level (high or low, strong or mild, long or short) like all the above. Noticing flavors in a cup of coffee required certain memories on a specify thing you tasted before, and relate them with your coffee. That’s tricky!
For an example, if you spend your whole life to believe the flavor of a banana is an apple? You will get the apple out from the coffee while others say it’s banana. And the problem is most of the time we don’t purposely memories things we ate in our lifetime, and that’s why it’s not easy. So, calm down and take it slow.
Now you have what you need, the 5 areas you need to look into when tasting a cup of coffee. There are no secret for how coffee professionals to describe coffee fluently but practice and experience.
Here are a few tips I always suggest to customers at Common Space Coffee and people who attend our coffee appreciation workshop. First, focus on one and only ONE area at a time. Think only one body, sweetness or maybe acidity (whichever you like) at a time at one sip. Never try to figure out everything at once because it’s just not possible for people without professional training and practice on the sense of taste.
Then, try to have coffee frequently. When I say having coffee frequently, it’s not having the coffee brewed using the same beans, you have to try different beans to notice the differences in them. Then force yourself to come up with a description and write them down, there is not right or wrong here.
You can also attend some coffee appreciation workshop or public cupping event to learn from coffee professionals. Be open and always ask questions.
If you like to go deeper in this, try to memories flavors every time when you are having any organic food items or fruits. To make this step simpler and quicker, you can refer this flavor wheel created by Counter Culture Coffee, buy those fruits, smell them, taste them and memories them.
Let’s Enjoy The Process
By and large, tasting coffee is fun, it’s a never ending learning and discovering journey. But it’s definitely fine for you to have coffee without being that specify in flavours, as long as you’re enjoying it. Yea, I don’t always taste the coffee at that detail level. Sometimes, I’m just enjoying that moment of time with a great cup of coffee.
After all, appreciate coffee is not that complicated. Get great beans and brew it right, then enjoy your time. Hope you find this insightful and helpful. As always, cheers! with coffee.