Coffee cupping or coffee tasting is an art that helps one pick out quality brews. A cupping session in the city invited coffee enthusiasts to sniff, sip, and slurp up some delicious, flavourful coffees.
Loud slurping sounds emanate from the room, making one think a banquet is underway. However, the source of the sounds is not a massive dining session, but a coffee cupping session, being held in an upstairs loft in a café at Mahalaxmi. Inside the room, glasses, spoons and packets of coffee beans line up the counter while an expectant bunch of cuppers crowd around the set-up. Welcome to Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters’ first coffee cupping session in the city. Marichi Clarke, Director of Coffee at Blue Tokai, and instructor of the cupping session, tells that the purpose of the session is to acquaint city coffee drinkers with the art of cupping, while also helping them sniff out quality coffee. “The most important thing we can do is to give coffee drinkers the tools to assess quality. Here, the market is split between people that love good coffee and the people who don't know how to assess quality coffee. Using these professional tools, you can assess quality coffee even at home,” says Marichi.
The coffee cupping, or tasting, session is as detailed and enjoyable as a wine tasting session. It starts off with Marichi giving participants information about a flavour chart, a tool that will come to the rescue during later parts of the session. Then, different varieties of coffee beans are ground and poured into glasses. In the next two hours, participants are asked to perform a range of tasks, like sniffing the ground coffee to discover fragrance and aroma, sniffing the coffee again after hot water is added and then, slurping the coffee to measure flavour, aftertaste, body and other parameters. Slurping has to be loud and vigorous, as the brew must hit the back of the tongue before it is spit out in a cup.
It was interesting to see cuppers sniff and slurp out a range of flavours and aromas like fruity, spicy, nutty, and several others. Some participants could even put their finger on the exact fruit they tasted, like cherries or apple, while others found walnut and caramel flavours. Time plays a crucial role as sampling was allowed after the brew was left standing for 10 to 15 minutes, and then after the 25 to 30 minute mark. All along, Marichi encouraged cuppers to take deeper sniffs, or louder slurps or to just focus on the flavours locked in the brews. Scores noted down during the activities were used to understand concepts like speciality coffees and commercial grade coffees.
The session was a veritable treat for coffee lovers for it invited them to sample a range of coffees, but it was also educational as it threw light on the different stages of coffee production, the different kinds of roasts, and how these aspects impact the taste and quality of coffee. Ruchit and Riddhi Mehta, who attended the coffee cupping session for the first time found it informative. “When you have coffee, you go with an espresso or a cappuccino, but you don't understand that there are grades in coffee, like there are grades in wine. This session helped us understand the science behind coffee,” says Riddhi.
Abhishek Joshi, an engineering student and ardent coffee lover, says this session will help him conduct better coffee experiments. “My favourite part was learning how to grade. We know the difference in tastes, but assigning a specific score and then tallying various attributes is what I was looking to learn,” he reveals.
Given the successful response, as their cupping session was sold out in just two days, Marichi says the coffee roastery aims to hold coffee cupping sessions at least once every month in the city.
Talking about whom these sessions would benefit, Marichi says, “It would benefit people who want to understand coffee. Everybody should be exposed to cupping, because it shows you quality very quickly and it's easy to discern. But, people who push themselves and continue to cup coffees at home or at cafes, those are the people who will gain the most out of it,” he concludes.