Posted Thu Aug 15, 2013, 6:41pm Subject: Is it just me?
Now don't get me wrong. I LOVE coffee. Just about everything about it but does anyone else think the descriptions put forth by some roasters and green bean suppliers are getting a little nutty?
And I mean "nutty" as in "crazy" not as in " the coffee has a distinct almond nuttiness wrapped in a maple licorice finish with just a hint of fresh mango"
I just read the following description from a well known supplier.
"This bean is loaded with lemon blossom, orange marmalade, green grape, and butterscotch."
Really? green grape? Not Emperor Grape or Concord Grape? Green grape?
Perhaps my palette just isn't refined enough to pick up these subtle differences but I wish the descriptions used were a little more universal. I actually read one the other day that used "whipping cream" in the description.
Posted Thu Aug 15, 2013, 9:03pm Subject: Re: Is it just me?
If you are talking about espresso, it likely would take better equipment than you have to bring out such flavor nuances. Also,these are usually very much background tastes, and hints of tastes. I will add that if your diet has many artificial flavorings in the food you eat, that can affect the way you perceive more subtle flavors as well.
NobbyR Senior Member Joined: 10 Jul 2011 Posts: 2,074 Location: Germany Expertise: I love coffee
Espresso: Poccino Opus One, Ariete Grinder: Eureka Mignon Istantaneo Vac Pot: N/A Drip: Melitta Linea Unica de Luxe Roaster: N/A
Posted Thu Aug 15, 2013, 9:52pm Subject: Re: Is it just me?
Cupping coffee or wine and whisky tasting is an aptitude that can be learned. What we call flavor is a complex sensation composed of taste (salty, sweet, bitter, sour), smell (aromas like caramel, fruity, chocolate, etc.) and mouthfeel (hot, oily, watery etc.), but it's mostly your nose that needs to be trained to identify those aromas.
In order to learn wine tasting, for example, you can get vials of the most common aromas found in wine like berries or peach. You start by smelling those until you can identify them. Then you progress to smelling and tasting wine and try to discover those aromas. By then, it's usually fairly easy to identify frequent and predominant aromas like blackberry or tannic acid. It's basically all about activating our nose memory.
For cupping coffee it's basically the same. The coffee taster's flavor wheel can help to name your sensations. Maybe this Beginner's Guide to Cupping can help you as well.
*** "This drink of the Satan is so delicious that it would be a shame to leave it to the infidels." (Pope Clement VIII on coffee, when he was urged to ban the beverage)
Posted Fri Aug 16, 2013, 4:35am Subject: Re: Is it just me?
So I absolutely agree that both my palette and equipment need upgrading. And rereading I should certianly apologize.My comment was in no way meant as an insult to cuppers. I guess the heart of my point isn't the necessity of lengthy descriptions or that cupping doesn't yield immense benefits in your appreciation of different beans because I believe that to be the case. However, after reading several recent descriptions and trying to make my selections I didn't find them overly helpful. Over the top really ... with more concern about marketing their coffee than providing me with helpful selection criteria." Lemon blossoms" for example ...don't think I have ever eaten an actual lemon blossom before as I doubt most have.
The discussion on this post I found on here from 8 years ago makes my point far better than I did.
Posted Fri Aug 16, 2013, 5:56am Subject: Re: Is it just me?
For me, this raises another question. Are these flavor descriptions coming from a cupping session, or a "simple" brewed cup of coffee? We all drink coffee, but how many of us do cupping sessions? Perhaps, if we don't "cup," we'll never really taste all the nuances listed in supplier's descriptions?
CMIN Senior Member Joined: 14 Jun 2012 Posts: 1,566 Location: South FL Expertise: I like coffee
Espresso: Crossland CC1 Grinder: Baratza Preciso
Posted Fri Aug 16, 2013, 6:27am Subject: Re: Is it just me?
I'm the same way, I can discern the difference to me of what is a good cup/shot and what isn't. Like bright coffee's all taste just sourish/lemony to me. I like more deeper notes like chocolate/caramel etc. But I agree, you'll see coffees with notes like "taste like caramel mixed with pralines and chocolate then dipped in roasted nuts sitting in butter with a hint of apples chopped in topped with rose petals" lol.... to me I'm just like taste good, I don't really taste any of that.
I can totally break down taste with beers or wine (especially beers not to toot my beer connoisseur horn heh) ... can't do the same for coffee even when I've been to cuppings, just either taste good or doesn't to me 99% of the time. Sometimes I can taste slight hints, like Bali Blue Krisha I love as it's a balanced bright coffee but doesn't have that sour/tarty/floral taste that damn near all other bright coffees have to me and I can sorta make out their cupping notes..so who knows lol
Posted Fri Aug 16, 2013, 6:34am Subject: Re: Is it just me?
I am convinced that some people are just supertasters, and they actually do taste some special things. Describing these special things is challenging, which is why they are just weird sometimes. It is probably also why they are harder to please, and thumb their nose at the general public's more pedestrian tastes.
But alas, I am not a supertaster. I can barely taste any of those things that they often go on and on about, and when I can taste them, it is not enough for me to really care about it. For example, I have twice paid for a pound of unroasted Gesha (a total of about $50 for separate purchases), roasted it to the recommended stage, and... been underwhelmed. I could tell the difference, but barely, and not enough to care.
So if I can't appreciate $35/lb coffee, why buy it?
My palate balances differently. I dislike acidic coffees like Kenyans, and prefer the heavier bass notes of Indonesians. Roasting darker kills even more of the acidity, to my preference. I do get a flavor benefit out of higher quality coffees that I roast and grind myself, so I make that extra effort. But it was the exploration that taught me what I like; I pay less and less attention to Tom Owen's cupping notes. He must be enjoying his job immensely, but I can't drink in that space too much.
So my suggestion is: try it once. If you like it and are willing to pay for it, buy it. Ignore the raves of people who like what you don't, or taste things that you can't. They can have their own little corner of Aromaheaven without me.
When choosing green beans I was just expecting suppliers to start with the stuff I think is more important to the buyer.. Such as some of the classification abbreviations below I'm trying to train myself to look for. Far more helpful in choosing a bean to roast IMO then " hints of baby's breath" I like a good detailed flavour description too but that shouldn't be all that is there.
• SG = Shade Grown • HB = Hard Bean. • FAQ = Fair Average Quality • SHG = Strictly High Grown (implies higher quality) • SHB = Strictly Hard Bean (similar to SHG) • Washed • DP = Dry Process
Posted Fri Aug 16, 2013, 10:04am Subject: Re: Is it just me?
I would say I have a limited palette, if the tasting notes are to be believed. Sometimes and only sometimes I can identify one or two of the descriptors on the bag of coffee.
I can't take the tasting notes too seriously. At the end of the day they are trying to describe in words something which is a smell/taste/flavour, something that is a sense and varies between individuals. A visual analogy might be describing a shade of blue. Who really knows what the other person is seeing?
You've got to put something on the bag but at the end of the day for me the acidity is what's important, the way the coffee is processed and the distinctive flavour profiles of some regions eg Indonesian coffees.
If there are super tasters, it's immaterial to me since it's not what I'm tasting.
Some of my favourite coffees are Hondurans, Guatamalans and Colombians which are washed and which just hit the spot and taste to me like my expectation of coffee. Admittedly a useless description.
Still it's fun to read the descriptions and at the end of the day it's advertising for that coffee and it does influence your purchasing decision. So long as they don't go too far and fall into the caricature category.
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