Serious java slurping

Smell, slurp, swish, spit is not
what most of us do with our morning coffee, but these were the instructions
from barista Erin Hulbert at a coffee cupping session at the Brassiere last

Ms Hulbert was there to give over
20 participants a glimpse into the coffee professional’s world of cupping.
Cupping is done to determine the aroma and flavour profile of coffee, and it is
the notes from a cupping that will be on the side of packet of coffee to inform
what the coffee tastes like. Ms Hulbert is from Barrington Coffee Roasting
Company, which sources beans from all over the world, and it is the brand used
at the Brassiere.

This was to be a blind tasting
judging on aroma, body, flavour and after taste. Ms Hulbert had three different
kinds of coffee — one from the Americas, Asia and Africa. She said that a
cupping is always very silent and that anything that came to mind should be
written down.

“Over my career, I have heard some
crazy descriptions but it does not matter how crazy it sounds it is all about
interpretation.” She also cautioned, “It is very important to keep your notes
to yourself so you do not influence anyone.” She did give some hints in the
characteristics of the coffees according to source of origin. “Americas is
known for its balance,it  makes a nice
morning coffee, African coffees dazzle and are about melody (flavour) and are
good for afternoon or after dinner, while Asian are known for their body. No
one is better or worse, it just depends on your palate.”

She also explained that
professional cupping is usually done in sterile conditions with no distracting

Then it was down to the testing.
But before noses descended into cups, we were told to look at the beans and see
if we could see any differences. Again she gave a clue – that the African bean
is slightly smaller than the other two. Next came the grinding of the coffee,
and the second the aroma hits you, “What are the thoughts that come into your

Once the coffee was ground and the
water added it formed a crust where the grounds had floated to the top. With
spoons especially made for the purpose of cupping, the crust is moved aside and
you slurp. We were encouraged to swish it around our mouths and think of what
memories or tastes it evoked. The last step was to spit it out and start the
process again.

There is a lot of fun when people
come to talk about the smells and flavours. The coffees are variously described
as smelling woodsy or like berries, and flavours are orangey, full-bodied and

Ms Hulbert is an absolute mine of
information about coffee. She also exploded some coffee “myths” — for
instance, never store coffee in the fridge or freezer, store it in a cool, dry,
dark place; and coffee usually has a shelf life of two weeks. She also advised
us “to go beyond our comfort zone and try different types.”