The science of cupping is fun!
To enjoy your work, to be able to do satisfying things that help you earn a living, is to be extremely lucky. At Coffee Island, we are especially pleased that our work is synonymous with fun!
One of the most important stages in coffee production is cupping. It’s also the most entertaining and interesting one.
Cupping is the way by which coffee is evaluated, graded and rated before its final costing. It’s the process by which we decide whether a specific coffee is a worthy companion in our journey from bean to cup. Will it be an option that we will enjoy in espresso, cappuccino or filter? Will it possibly become our favourite new variety or blend? Cupping provides us with the answers we seek.
That’s why we follow a specific procedure and strict protocol during the cupping process. In fact, everything is done under controlled parameters and precise measurements. During the cupping process, we first don our aprons and set the tables, cups and spoons. We then compare varietals from separate farms, various altitudes and uneven parts of the same farm. This stage of cupping allows us to identify the varietals’ aromatic characteristic and flavour profile, which gives us the chance to evaluate them and decide whether we should offer them to our guests.
Cupping is special.
Cupping is a unique experience! More than 800 flavours are released during the roasting and grinding of the coffee beans. 40 of these flavours have a higher concentration and are responsible for providing the basic coffee flavour. All these substances are affected by a variety of factors, such as the genus of the coffee tree, the country and region of origin, soil characteristics and its slope, temperature, humidity, sunshine, and the way the coffee fruit is collected and processed. Even the same farm can produce coffee varietals with completely different characteristics, and even the smallest coffee bean encloses infinitely unique features.
Cupping is a strict procedure.
Αs delightful as it may be, cupping requires intense engagement and concentration to follows its rigorous procedure. The game has its rules! Rules that are listed in the SCA Cupping Protocols and followed worldwide. The coffee must be fresh and lightly roasted (lightly coloured) the previous day so that the roasting process won’t interfere with the coffee bean’s natural characteristics and aromas. Each varietal is divided into doses and each dose is individually milled, so if there should be a defective one, it won’t spread to all the cups. This separation allows us to determine whether a coffee is stable and whether there is a homogeneity or difference amongst the cups. Three or five cups placed on a high table are used for each variety. The table is set and the process begins. The only thing left between the table and the cupper is coffee!
Cupping is a sensory experience.
Our noses are the first to welcome us to the wonderful aromas of ground coffee. We sniff the freshly ground beans and all the complex aromas conjure up pleasant images in our minds. This is also how the profile of each coffee varietal is formed. Then, the coffee is moistened with about 200ml water at 94 oC. The flow of water causes stirring, and thus the coffee is extracted. We patiently let the coffee stand for four minutes.
After four minutes have passed, we break the crust created at the top of the cup and dip the spoon three times, making a semicircular move from the front of the cup towards the back. This specific technique helps the coffee to immerse by stopping the extraction and homogenizes our beverage. Afterwards, we clean the surface from the floating material and wait a few more minutes for the temperature to reach 70 °C.
And now… slurp!
Slurping is our favourite part in the cupping process. This is where the real fun begins because we finally get to taste the full flavor of our coffee. Slurping allows the coffee to be spread out over a greater surface area in the mouth. It is called slurp because the sipping of the coffee is accompanied by a loud, distinctive and aptly-named slurping noise! The spraying brings forth the aromas of every varietal, which are directed to the same part of the brain that recognizes the aromas inhaled from the nose. Slurp is a two-sense procedure. But be careful! The secret of the game is not to swallow the coffee but rather to taste it. The end of the game comes with the evaluation of each coffee varietal. The attributes evaluated are as follows: aroma, taste, acidity, sweetness, body and aftertaste.
Cupping is complete, and we all smile at a job well done. Once again, the journey was enjoyable, full of mouthwatering flavours and aromas. What a trip!
Until next time or our next cupping… whatever comes first.
Research & Development Department