17 December 2012

Coffee Attributes

Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast, 1999, Excerpts

Coffee experts talk about four basic components that blend to create the perfect cup: aroma, body, acidity, and flavor.

Coffee is an extraordinarily delicate commodity. Its quality is first determined by essentials such as type of plant, soil conditions, and growing altitude. It can be ruined at every step along the line, from fertilizer and pesticide application to harvesting methods to processing to shipping to roasting to packaging to brewing. A coffee bean greedily absorbs odors and flavors from a host of nauseating companions. Too much moisture produces mold. A too-light roast produces undeveloped, bitter coffee, while over roasted coffee resembles charcoal. After roasting, the beans stale quickly unless used within a week or so. Boiling or sitting on a hot plate quickly reduces the finest brew to a stale, bitter, mouth-turning cup of black bile. In addition, it can be adulterated with an astonishing array of vegetable matter, ranging from chicory to figs.

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond, 2008, Excerpt

During my year as a cupper, the journal had traveled around the world with me – Ethiopia, Yemen, Uganda, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Java, New Guinea. It was filled with detailed notes on aroma and body, acidity and balance. The word associated with cupping were as varied as the coffees, and I found comfort in their simple, precise poetry: a taste described as sweet could be further broken down into piquant, nippy, mild, or delicate, while a sour-tasting coffee was acrid, hard, tart, or tangy. Aromas were dry, sugary, or enzymatic, the latter of which could be further described as flowery, fruity, or herby. A flowery aroma was either floral or fragrant, a fruity aroma was either citrusy or berrylike, and an herby aroma was alliaceous or leguminous. Most people sipping their morning java wouldn’t identify the aromas of onion, garlic, cucumber, or garden peas that characterized the herby coffees, or the cedar and pepper aromas in a spicy coffee of the warming variety – but to me a major part of the joy in drinking a cup of coffee came from noticing these subtle variations.

Coffee taster's tongue worth £10m
09 Mar 2009
"The taste buds of a Master of Coffee are as important as the vocal cords of a singer or the legs of a top model, and this is one of the biggest single insurance policies taken out for one person," said a spokesman for Lloyd's broker Glencairn Limited, which arranged the insurance cover. "In my profession my taste buds and sensory skills are crucial and allow me to distinguish any defects," said Mr Pelliccia. 

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