Although we have different tastes, my dad and I share a love for good coffee. Last summer, I took John and my dad to an informal coffee tasting session at Starbucks in Unionville, ON. It was very interesting, as I had no idea that drinking coffee could be so complex and sophisticated. Here is what we learned from that coffee tasting session.
Introduction to Coffee Tasting
The Aroma of Coffee
Coffee should always be sampled black (i.e. without milk, cream, or sweeteners). But before you taste it, similar to wine tasting, you should smell the aroma first. To do this, cup your hand over the opening of the cup of coffee to capture the steam. Then, keeping one hand over the top of the cup, bring the cup to your nose and breath in the trapped steam. Take note of what you smell.
How to Sample Coffee
As I mentioned, coffee should be sampled black. When you take your first sip, much like in wine tasting, make a loud slurping sound while drawing the coffee into your mouth. Be careful not to burn yourself with the hot coffee! It is important that you allow the coffee to evenly coat the entire surface of your tongue, since different areas of your tongue taste different flavours. Allow the coffee to sit on your tongue for a couple of seconds before swallowing. Note the flavours that you taste. Some will present themselves immediately, while others will present in an aftertaste. Common words used to describe the flavours of coffee include, but are not limited to: bitter, spicy, sour, citrus, fruity, smoky, burnt, earthy, nutty, etc.
Where the Coffee Hits the Tongue
The most interesting thing that I learned about coffee tasting was to pay attention to where the coffee sits on your tongue. After you’ve swallowed the first sip of coffee, take note of where the flavour lingers the most on your tongue. If the coffee sits on the front of your tongue, that means that the coffee is a light roast. If the coffee sits on the middle of your tongue, the coffee is a medium roast. And, if the coffee sits on the back of your tongue, the coffee is a dark roast. Coffee blends may appear to sit between different regions of your tongue, or they will linger on more than one region.
Different coffee beans bring out different flavour notes from food. We sampled a coffee blend that really brought out the blueberry flavour from a blueberry oat bar. A different blend would have intensified the oat flavour instead. Unfortunately, I haven’t learned how to do proper coffee and food pairing, but I now pay attention to how coffee affects the taste of accompanying foods.
I loved coffee before my introduction to coffee tasting, but now I have a better understanding of it and I appreciate it that much more. I hope that you found this as informative and interesting as I did. Thanks to Starbucks in Unionville for offering this free coffee tasting. I hope that they will start offering these at more locations.