How do you take your coffee? A lot of us add cream, sugar, and syrups to create a taste we enjoy. Did you know that many of the flavors we replicate, naturally occur in coffee? When you know what flavors you enjoy and understand what creates the taste of coffee, you can probably find those flavors in the cup right in front of you, without adding a single thing. In this short series, we are going to talk through how origin, process, roast, and brew methods impact the taste of coffee. In part one of this series, we're going to explain what we mean by taste.
What is Taste?
Water is simply water, west, is always west, and north will always be north. But if you take apples and stew them into applesauce, they taste more like prunes with a creamy texture, full of bright and earthy flavors. Now you tell me what you know is true when it comes to taste.
Is Coffee, simply coffee?
I would like to make an argument that taste, is not always taste. It is not one dimensional. The role of taste is multifaceted in our coffee industry. For example, in commercially trading, taste is a common language used to describe attributes of a product between a buyer and a seller, to specify quality and communicate acceptable and or, unacceptable characteristics. The elimination of emotions here gives taste a single dimension. Unless of course, one understands that an unacceptable characteristic in flavor, is irreversibly connected to the demise of a producer’s livelihood.
Taste is physiological and aesthetic, manufactured and developed, subjective, and objective. It conveys complexity and depth of meaning that has been all but ignored in our factory producing standardized commodities to manipulate the masses into passivity. It has been lost and suppressed. It is fair to say that taste has been smacked right out of our mouths. And because of this, we have come to accept food as purely a form of sustainment, just as we have grown to view coffee as functional - to get through early mornings and long days.
How I Evaluate the Taste of Coffee
I don’t share this often, but I think it will help provide context for how I explain the taste of Coffee throughout this series. I am what they call a Q-grader in the coffee industry and they aren’t many of us. It’s like a “sommelier” in wine. We are trained to taste a coffee and before asserting its brew method, processing method, or even roast profile, identify the foundational attributes of geographical flavor that occur at origin. As Q-graders, we help establish a common language to talk about the taste of coffee.
How We'll Learn to Evaluate Taste Together
In our industry, we say, “You can’t add any more flavor in the bean once the farmer has plucked it off the tree.” All actors and participants in its long journey to your cup are only custodians of the flavor that has been locked in, thanks to the combined efforts of nature and farmer. So, in our journey of understanding the taste of coffee, we’ll start at the beginning, at origin. We’ll then work our way through processing, roasting, and brewing methods to help you gain the knowledge to interpret the taste of your coffee so that you can enjoy the natural flavors the farmer has plucked from the tree.