Like most everybody with an email address, I get a daily deluge of email offers to sell me mortgages, prescription drugs, and college diplomas… and while I’d love to paper my walls with non-accredited college diplomas in fantastic subjects — Semiotic Philology, Medieval Film Studies, Contemporary Coffeeology — these places never include a price list. (What kind of marketing is that, anyway?)

I also get a number (a small number) of emails from Bloggle readers. Some are praise! Others are criticism. (Both are welcome.) Most are questions… and most often those questions become fodder for future posts. Here’s a sampling of those that I don’t think I’ve yet written about… and their answers.

So how do you like living in Vermont?

Very much, thanks.

Really?

Yes, really.

When you review coffees, how do you brew the coffee, and why don’t you offer a number scale?

Great question. Most all of the reviews I offer here are based on tasting coffee versus cupping coffee. The distinction — in my mind, anyway — is important.

Cupping coffee is a technique usually used (and in my mind, best used) to evaluate green coffee, both to determine its roast potential, and to identify defects. (See Cupping Coffee with the Pros for details on the mechanics of cupping.) Tasting coffee, however, is something that everybody does… it’s just that some of us are perhaps more contemplative over their cup than others.

I make every effort to taste and evaluate coffees the same way you would, and so I brew the coffee I’m tasting much as you might, in a Melitta pour-over cone, brewed at 200 degrees F. (This is, incidentally, how I make most *every* cup I drink.) I’ll occasionally find a coffee that prefers another brewing method… when I do I’ll note that, too.

Cupping coffee is more rigorous — and more methodical — than tasting coffee. Cupping affords more opportunity to quantify a cup, but little opportunity to appreciate it. Cupping generates lots of numbers, to be sure. But numbers alone can’t tell the story of the farm where that coffee was grown, or how it was harvested, or how that coffee pairs with dessert. Numbers do little to describe the vast array of distinctive origins and flavors and aromas that make up the world of specialty coffee. At worst, numbers can have an unfortunate homogenizing effect on a market… at best, they simply fail to tell the whole story.

Is it snowing in Vermont?

Yes, at the moment it’s something of a blizzard out there. It’s lovely, really.

I own a little coffee shop in [Anytown, USA] and I roast my own coffee. If I send you some coffee, will you review it?

I love tasting coffee from all over. I really do. By all means, feel free to send coffee… and if I find it particularly distinctive I’m almost certain to write about it. Please send your coffee sealed in its commercial packaging. (To learn where to send coffee, drop me an email — there’s a link under my photo on this page — and I’ll forward you a postal address.)

If you write about my coffee, can I use your review to help sell my coffee?

Yes. It’s your coffee, after all.

Can I approve what you write about my coffee before you publish it?

No.

If I enclose a twenty dollar bill, can I guarantee a good review?

No. And for that matter, I can’t guarantee that I’ll write about your coffee at all… but if I do, I’ll call it like I see it. Of course, you’re still welcome to send your money… I may be in the market for a non-accredited college diploma.

More: coffee | coffee review | coffee tasting | vermont | reader mail

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