DSCN9297We had the absolute best first introduction to cupping thanks to Salt Spring Coffee. A cupping is the way you taste for quality in coffee. You’re looking for many things in taste, but also in smell. This way you can tell not only freshness and consistency in the beans, but also the quality, level and consistency of the roasting.

You grind up the beans and then pour over water that’s just before the boil (never at a full boil). You then let it steep for a couple of minutes. After that, you begin with the smelling stage. You break the top of the coffee with your spoon and mix around a bit with your nose right at the cup. You smell for many things. And, trust me, you can really smell differences. Seriously. You can actually smell bitterness or smell smoothness. It’s awesome. You’d never get this any other way. It’s all about lining them up. A really organized cupping will place many of the same coffee in a row to test the consistency thing. You simply spin the table around and keep on going.

After the smell stage is the taste stage. You don’t “drink” it, really. You suck it into your mouth really quickly so that it lands on the palate just so. Aerates. Then you swirl it and spit it back out. Waste, perhaps. But it matters when you try so many. I think my favourite was the Ethiopian Yergacheffe. It was a ton of fun! Lots of learning, but really amazing. You’d just really never get this depth of understanding of taste and smell unless you tried them all in this way.

Here is me doing the official cupping:

Arieanna slurping coffee

Here are some of the descriptive words to use when cupping (click through for larger):


My only addition was the term “buttery” for smell as well.