I went to a coffee cupping session the other day at Intelligentsia Coffee‘s NYC Training Lab. Cupping is similar to wine tasting and is mainly used professionally in the industry as a way to evaluate coffee quality. I’ve seen it done before by a roasting expert on an innovation tour I led last year in Tokyo on the topic of connoisseurship, but this was my first time trying it out myself. Our Intelligentsia coffee educator showed our little group how to evaluate three types of ground coffees in multiple stages, from dry to wet, stirred (called “the break” from when you puncture the upper crust of grounds that forms), and to finally tasting after most of the floating grounds have been scooped out.
I felt totally smell-deaf at first as the only descriptive word that came to my mind when smelling the grinds was ‘coffee’. But with increased focus and some imagination, I eventually managed to find some more nuanced descriptions to write down on my chart of aromas and flavors, like ‘almond cookies’ and ‘molten chocolate lava cake.’ (Perhaps I was just hungry?) It was encouraging to realize at the end of the session that despite the group consisting mainly of first-time amateurs, in general people seemed to be writing down descriptions that were roughly in the same ballpark. My favorite description given by a fellow attendee about a particularly complex coffee was, “like a winter wonderland in the spring!” Sort of makes you think about coffee in a whole new way, doesn’t it? Like wine, cheese and chocolate, coffee is well on its way to becoming better known for its origins and artisinal qualities rather than as mere commodity.
It’s a shame that Intelligentsia doesn’t yet have a coffee shop in NYC. Luckily you can still get their superior coffees in many cafes around town like Kaffe 1668 in Tribeca, a beautiful shop owned by Swedish twin brothers. Not only is the coffee amazing, courtesy of Intelligentsia, they have delicious pastries and the shop’s Svenska design aesthetic is utterly charming. Anyway, the cupping session costs only ten bucks and it’s open to the public so if you’re a lay coffee-freak like myself, I highly recommend it. And from a marketing perspective, what a lovely way to get consumers to interact with your brand and foster brand loyalty! I for one am totally sold; especially on their Rwandan Bufcafe. Upgrade your life! Go buy some good beans!