In which I make some progress… and in so doing change my mind.
I have long asserted that I don’t much care to assign numbers to coffee, and for a host of reasons. First among these is that origin coffee is altogether unique stuff. It speaks of where it was grown — lush cloudforests filled with exotic birdsong to treacherously steep volcanic slopes to shade-dappled hills above vast, beast-covered plains. Its flavors and aromas reflect the soil, the rain, the sun and the care of its grower.
And then there is roasting and blending… the alchemist arts of bringing beans and fire together and creating something new — something fresh and fleeting — that is at the least the sum of its carefully selected origins, and ideally so much more. How do you quantify that?
In a word, carefully.
The Specialty Coffee Association uses an unusually complex and curious system to rate origin coffees. This system uses a 100 point scale. Fifty of those points aren’t actually calculated… as best I can tell they’re just there to pad the resume. Nonetheless, after decades of use this system is the accepted standard among cuppers, and in coffee lands the world over. And for evaluating green coffee it’s a useful tool. However, it doesn’t consider the effect of the roast on a given bean, and some of its anachronisms (cupper’s points, anyone?) make it nonsensical for the coffee consumer.
My final, and most strenuous objection to rating coffees has been my own relative lack of experience tasting and evaluating coffee. I have always been an enthusiast about coffee, but I could never stake a claim to professional objectivity, so who am I to say whether a given cup is worth your hard-earned dollar? (Or given the rarefied prices of some exemplary beans, your sack of dollars?) This too has changed.
For five years I’ve been really been paying attention to the flavors and aromas and body and balance of coffee from all over the world. I’ve become ever more attuned to the quality of acidity — or brightness — of coffee, not merely its presence. And along the way I’ve enjoyed a remarkable event — my sensory perception has bloomed. And while I may not precisely recall the sensations of last year’s La Minita Tarrazu I’m consistently in the ball-park (and besides, I’ve kept good notes.)
These days when I cup with the coffee pros our numbers match, overall. Sure, I have my own predilections and preferences — so too, I now understand — do they. It’s enough that we’re aware of them.
And so today I’ll willingly call myself “semi-pro”. What’s more I’ll willingly rate the coffees I taste, though not with any Parkeresque scale. Instead I’ll use the same rating system you see every day, from browsing weekly movie reviews to shopping at Amazon.com — five stars — and I’ll make every single one of them count. In fact, I already have.
Without further ado… Bloggle’s Coffee Reviews.