Cupping the Challenge or, you can tell the happy cupper by the coffee grounds in his teeth….
A thoughtful and highly reflective round of cupping coffees does not begin with a triple round of double espressos. Of course, we weren’t planning to be terribly reflective or thoughtful — we just wanted to taste some seriously good coffee and more or less step through the motions as an exercise… it worked for us.
Six cups, six coffees — each identified only by the letters A through E, and the Mystery Blend, X. This is open bowl cupping — no filters. I’ve ground about two tablespoons of coffee for each cup. Pause a moment to sniff the dry fragrance of the coffee… sample A is enticing, and so is D. Sample X — the mystery blend — has some of the same nuances as A. I’ve cycled a round of water through the freshly-scrubbed Bunn auto-drip, so the water is probably about 197 degrees F. It’d be better about 10 degrees warmer, but it’ll do. I pour a bit more than 5 ounces of water in each cup, and give ’em a few minutes to get happy. And chase the dog from the room.
It’s almost unfair to start with sample A. Break the crust of grounds on the top of the cup — the cap — and breathe the aroma in. It’s huge, this coffee is. The coffees that follow pale in sample A’s wake… Each cup sniffed and noted, I spoon off the rest of the cap and stir the cups. And chase the dog from the room, again.
If we were cupping known coffees we’d start with lighter coffees and work our way to what we expected to be heavier cups — those that have big body, big flavors, deeper roasts. But we’re cupping blind so we work the row, left to right, A to X. And, starting with A we once again have that huge coffee’s flavor. It’s floral. And fruity. Tea like. Black tea. [Tea? Tea! I thought this was coffee? It is.. it’s just tea-like… and not in a bad way at all.]
We move along, even though I’d like to just brew a pot of sample A right now. After I chase the dog from the room.
We move to B. I’m not happy about B. B has some body — maybe a bit of a twang to it [dry processed, I think, it’s not acidy]. Other than that it’s strictly neutral. Enough of B. Sample C has much more flavor to along with its body… it’s rich, almost no acid, and slightly viscous on the tongue. Got a *real* good idea where C comes from. Stumble over the dog.
The next sample, D, is a zippy cup. Crisp acidity, lots of flavor. I know that coffee very well. I’ve roasted 25 or 30 pounds of it in the last year, and drank most of it. And that puts the cupping exercise in a new light for me, ’cause now I’ve got a solid reference point. I slurp a bit of sample C again, and reaffirm that I’ve got my bearings. Lock the dog in another room.
Sample E is a tricky cup. It’s not terribly forward at all. There’s some middle of the road acidity — it’s right on the edge of sour — but still clean. And then its finish sneaks up on you. Sweet. Buttery. Caramel. Yowzah. And that leaves X. Sample X shares a lot with A. A lot. The rest of its composition is more subtle, but it’s there… right on the tip of your tongue.