Thursday, June 16, 2005

   from Ellie

teaching tasting

This week I did a blind tasting with some of our staff at the Broadway store. Usually when tasting I don't keep the coffee identities hidden but this time I wanted to try something different. Anyway, I just brewed Black Cat and Decaf Black Cat in French Presses and had each of the staff write down what they thought the coffees were. I told them that I would buy lunch for anyone that correctly identified either one of the coffees.

The purpose of the exercise was multi-fold. One, I guessed (correctly) that not one of the staff members would guess a decaf. To me this indicates a few things- that our decaf Black Cat is pretty damn tasty, and also that we need to open our minds a little bit more when blind tasting. To my delight, a few of the staff guessed Organic Sumatra or Sulawesi and I think these have a lot of similar taste properties to the Decaf Black Cat, especially the O Sumatra- full body, distinct changes in flavor notes from start to finish, uncomplicated overall impact. Another purpose of this excercise was to show how a coffee that all of our baristas are sooooooo familiar with (Black Cat) can taste different to the point of not being quite as recognizeable when brewed differently and again encouraging more openmindedness with tasting.

Does anyone else out there have any experience with blind tasting and how to develop the palate as well as the psychology involved with tasting? I think an exercise like this is valuable but it seems like if one kept doing "trick" blind tastings like this it might get exhasting and be overkill. Anyone have a formula for balancing non-blind and blind tasting to maximize the impact of both?


Blogger Peter G said...

viva blind tasting!

This reminds me of a blind tasting we did about a year ago: Mexico La Trinidad vs. Decaf Mexico Onyx vs. Decaf Mexico La Trinidad. Almost everybody chose Decaf Mexico La Trinidad as their favorite.

We always cup together on Fridays, and we usually cup blind. We've decided it's more fun that way! The roasters always get all intense trying to guess the coffees and usually everybody learns something. I find that when tasting blind, you are much less apt to bring your preconceptions with you ("I don't like Peru.")

The challenge with blind tasting is to prevent it from seeming like a test. Tasting becomes a lot less fun when you feel like you are being tested. One solution I have used is to write the coffee name on a card and turn it face down in front of the coffee. As people are tasting, they can look at the card if they want, but I explain to them it is more fun if you keep it blind. This keeps the emphasis on "fun". Then, focus on describing the flavors, instead of 'guessing the coffee right'. You are right on when you connect people's taste descriptors (like O Sumatra or Sulawesi) with Decaf BC. They described it perfectly!

I don't find blind tasting all the time to be tiresome. On the other hand, it makes it seem less scary because it is so commonplace!


6/16/2005 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...

This morning I did this great fake out which the guys, of course, didn't catch.
A whole table of cups with the coffee codes on each except two which were labeled A & B.
A & B were duplicates of two of the coded coffees on the table. You'd think that my guys would have caught on by now because I have done that more than a couple of times.
This is the way we can approach blind cupping form another angle.

Also try putting extremely stale coffee on the table or some other company's french roast and see if someone actually calls it out.

6/17/2005 05:03:00 PM  
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