For those who haven’t heard, a coffee sommelier is very similar to a wine sommelier, they’re the experts in their trade. Their role in the world of coffee is one of the most important – tasting and vetting coffee before it is pushed out to us consumers.
Some of you may be thinking, “well this sounds like an easy job, drinking coffee all day”, well yes they are drinking coffee all day but, it’s far from easy. Coffee sommeliers need to be the know-it-alls for everything from the green bean, to the cup. You think you could be a coffee sommelier? Here is what you need to know:
- bean origins
- roasting process
- brewing process
- how to distinguish aromas and flavours
- how to describe the flavours accurately
- how to experiment with blends effectively
- food paring opportunities
The Cupping process
Most sommeliers use the cupping process to taste, evaluate and score their coffees – in some cases a few hundred a day! The tasting and evaluations here are imperative to the coffee supplier to ensure that they are selling the best possible product to their customers. These are the key steps to the cupping process:
- Evaluate the green beans and the perfect roast - only really for in house sommeliers working for large coffee brands
- The grounds - have they been ground correctly or overdeveloped?
- The aroma - after the brew, examine the gasses released when breaking the top
- The taste - a just small amount of coffee on a spoon. Sommeliers describe the taste process as aerating the coffee across the palate as quickly as they can to use as many taste bud receptors as possible. Many others would describe this in a less technical way - a slurp!
- The after taste - how does the flavour linger and finish? This is where you may pick up on fruit notes etc.
- Acidity - measured based on experience
- The body - the feel of the liquid. Heavy, creamy etc.
- The balance - is the coffees flavour and body well balanced?
- Overall impression - here is where the coffee is given a score
This is a short video of the cupping process in action:
As I am sure you will agree, there are many great parts to this role which any coffee fanatic would love. Tasting new and exciting flavours, exploring your palate, experimenting with blends to best bring out the distinct notes and even pairing coffees with food. Plus, you will always have energy to get to the gym after work!
It’s not all happy and rosy for the coffee heroes, oh no. This really can affect their lifestyle. For example, spending half an hour trying to decide what coffee to have with breakfast, or being unable to pop out for a coffee with friends without submitting a report to the barista!