Taking coffee tasting to a new level

Taking coffee tasting to a new level

Taking coffee tasting to a new level

Updated 19 August 2014, 13:27 AEST

Australia is historically a tea-drinking nation, but in 2012 coffee became the number one hot drink consumed by all age groups in the country. Now there's even tasting sessions known as 'cuppings' for coffee aficionados.

Aimed to educate, a cupping can be as detailed as a wine tasting. Words like acidity, sweetness and mouthfeel are used to describe the coffee's characteristics. And similar to wine tasting, you don't swallow everything you taste - in fact spitting out is encouraged in order to avoid caffeine overload!

Tom Roden, the owner of Exchange Speciality Coffee conducts cuppings in Adelaide. He worked in the UK before deciding to return to his hometown to start a specialty cafe. 

Tom says, "I first got into coffee as a part time job while studying at uni. I ended up deciding that coffee was where my passion lay.

"I got extremely lucky by landing a job at Workshop Coffee Co, one of the leaders in specialty coffee in London and the world.

"I returned to Adelaide and was dead-set on opening a coffee bar of my own. I also wanted to provide a different approach to specialty coffee than was otherwise available in Adelaide; I really wanted to push approachability, product knowledge, attention to detail and genuine hospitality."

Tom now holds regular coffee tastings at his shop to help educate his clientele about coffee. He says 'blind tastings' allow people to tune into their palates rather than relying on what they know about certain coffees and regions. Here's what some of the participants learned from a recent coffee tasting experience:

Vishal flexes his tastebuds (Credit: Peta Astbury, ABC)
Vishal flexes his tastebuds (Credit: ABC)

Dentistry student Vishal, 31, has participated in a coffee tasting like this before, but not for 3-4 years. The tasting experience highlighted to him the progression of coffee available in Australia. 

"Maybe my memory is warped because it’s been a long time since my last tasting, but I think that the clarity of the coffees available today were really incredible - you could taste a lot of flavour from them," he says.

"There were a lot of fruit notes in the coffees, which is delicious. These notes make the coffee bright and are so obviously different to coffee that is drawn through an espresso machine."

Vishal usually drinks either a double espresso shot let out with a little water or filter coffee.

This is Dale's second tasting experience (Credit: ABC)
Dale says you learn to know what you like at coffee tastings (Credit: ABC)

Dale, 26, is a customer service manager. Her first tasting session was in Sydney at Single Origin Roasters. She has been involved in more since then and finds tastings an interesting opportunity to learn more about coffee. 

"I like drinking coffee but I don’t think I have the best palate for it, although I do enjoy it and try to learn where I can," she says.

"The baristas here are really good at explaining everything. And I have learnt to taste differences between coffees over time. Events like this help you identify the tasting notes that are on each coffee but it also helps you form your own opinion of what you think of the coffee as well."

Dale usually drinks an espresso or filter coffee, which she says is purely a time-based decision (filter coffee takes longer to make).


Mitch at his first coffee tasting experience (Credit: ABC)

Mitch, 24 works in the transport industry. This is his first tasting session and he found tasting a number of different coffees at once an educative process.

"It is hard to tell until they are all there at the same temperature  (which is when) you notice the hints of different flavours easier," he says.

"There was one natural coffee on taste and you could tell that it was a lot different. There were actually two coffees the same  one washed and one natural and I could really taste the difference between the two. This experience will help me taste coffee differently  it definitely helps work out what you like."

Mitch usually drinks filter coffee – he likes Ethiopian and natural (or dry processed coffee), but usually tries a bit of everything.


David compares coffee characteristics  (Credit: ABC)

David, 23, is a post-graduate student. He has been involved in a coffee tasting before and is impressed by this tasting as it took more of a scientific approach to coffee than he had experienced before.

"There were eight different coffees on taste. The tasting gave us an opportunity to break down and compare the different characteristics of each coffee," he says. "It makes everything more clear when you have direct comparisons."

David usually drinks filter coffee.