Perhaps you’ve overheard coffee buffs in a local cafe talking about cupping their favourite coffees or maybe you’ve even spotted trendy twenty-somethings in beanies rather aggressively slurping coffee from spoons on Instagram. Whichever way you’ve stumbled across the peculiar art of coffee cupping, we’re here to shed some light on the topic, and tell you what the hell all this cupping palaver is all about.
What exactly is coffee cupping?
Cupping coffee is one of the purest forms of tasting coffee and is a method used to evaluate its flavour profile. All it takes to prepare is hot water, coarsely ground coffee, a cup and a spoon. Simply speaking, you just add the hot water to the ground coffee in a cup, let it steep for a few moments and then skim the top layer of grounds off the top and you’re good to go. The simplicity of this brewing process is really what makes it such a crucial tool within the coffee industry. The benefits of such simplistic brewing are that it’s very easy to repeat and achieve consistency under different circumstances. This means that from cupping session to cupping session, someone with a trained palate can taste minute changes in different batches. This is also why cupping is so useful for comparing different beans at the same time, but we’ll get on to that later.
Why is cupping so important?
Cupping in its very nature is a rather odd practice. Generally with food or wine, the best way to assess and taste its profile is to consume the item in the same way it’s usually prepared. For instance, wine (aside from the odd swirl and slurp) is tasted simply straight out of a glass. The same can be said for beers, spirits and other beverages. This therefore begs the question, why do we even cup in the first place? We definitely don’t drink our daily brew in this way, so how is it relevant?
As touched on earlier, cupping is a very pure brewing method, which means you’re really tasting the coffee itself rather than any flavours imparted onto it by the brewing process. This version of coffee is definitely its truest consumable form, and therefore makes it easier for an individual to gauge and identify specific flavours and aromas. Cupping also allows you to brew several different types of coffee in quick succession with a very high level of consistency. By doing this, an individual is able to objectively offer a balanced comparison between different coffees that are being cupped at the same time.
When does coffee cupping take place?
It’s important for anyone involved within the production of coffee to frequently cup their batches of coffee. This allows for a higher degree of quality control as well as providing valuable insight into the roast profile itself, which can be altered to achieve the desired taste of the roaster. Cupping coffee can help a good roaster and their team shape and fine tune their profiles to get the very best flavours out of their beans. Cupping different suppliers’ coffees can also help inform a roaster of the competition and meet demands of growing trends and tastes. Cupping is also incredibly useful for training, developing knowledge about coffee in general and improving your coffee tasting abilities!
The process of coffee cupping itself is actually a very enjoyable social activity – providing an environment where like minded coffee lovers can come together and discuss coffee in a casual way. Because of this, roasteries and cafes alike often hold coffee cupping events within the community that are always great fun!
Who exactly needs to be cupping coffee?
This has a fairly broad answer, as anyone who has an interest in coffee can get involved! There are of course individuals who cup on a day to day basis, with it being a crucial part of their role within the industry. Baristas, roasters, coffee buyers and sellers as well as specialty coffee shop owners will all be well seasoned cuppers. Anyone who wants to improve their general knowledge about coffee or refine their palette will also find cupping useful. Here at Social Espresso, we regularly hold staff coffee cupping sessions to evaluate and refine our own roasts and test our teams’ taste buds!
Where can I have a go?
As mentioned above, anyone can have a go at cupping coffee and much like wine or cheese tasting, it’s a fun group activity to get involved in! Square Mile offers a range of coffee cupping events which work great for team building.