Our humble coffee bean has already come a long way. From being nurtured by mother nature, infused with nutrients from the ground and the sky, harvested by hand when at its ripest, pulped, washed, dried, graded for size and then packed for export, the coffee bean has still to undergo its greatest challenge – making the quality grade.
The most important measure of coffee quality is “flavour”. For that reason, coffees are assessed for taste at every stage of their journey, most importantly when the coffee is graded in the country of origin and when it is sold in the importing country. The purpose of this cup tasting or “cupping” is to evaluate the coffee objectively against recognised standards and markings. The basic attributes that are being evaluated by experts are aroma, flavour, body and acidity. These are the important components of great espresso coffees. Finding that right balance is a ‘holy grail’ experience that everyone interested and involved in coffee is chasing.
In ‘coffee-land’, this is what we are looking for when we visit plantations and farms around the world. I remember being in Honduras a few years ago and having spent 2 days touring farms and plantations high up in the mountains either on the back of a very uncomfortable flat-bed truck or on a powerful Quad bike (because of the extremely rough terrain), we then spent a whole day ‘cupping’ and testing the various coffees that we had collected samples of. It’s a critical part of the process in determining what beans will work in your blends or have the right qualities to be served as a Single Origin coffee to your consumers. Understanding what exactly what each bean has to offer and how it rates against other coffees in the same cupping session or others that have been graded by the same standards is usually the job of an expert either at source or by roastmasters at roasteries around the world before they decide to buy a coffee or determine the price they want to pay for it. It is also a great way to develop your palate at home. Youtube can teach you the art of ‘cupping’ at home if this is an interest.
Having been graded and a price set, the bean is underway again, this time to a roastery to be effectively ‘cooked’ but at a temperature and for a time that will allow it to mature and really develop its flavours. It will then be blended and bagged or packed as a Single Origin coffee and sent out of the last part of its journey. To the coffee drinker. You!
This commitment to quality from the very early stages of the journey of the bean is paramount in controlling what ends up in your cup. It is something we care about deeply at Jones Brothers.
Next time…we will explore how the bean makes it to your cup and how a Barista can make it sing in your cup…or destroy it!
The Bean Team