A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite places in Raleigh, the Larry’s Beans coffee roasting facility! I’ve been to Larry’s Beans to take their cool bean plant tour twice now, but this was my first trip there for an actual “coffee cupping”. In fact, this was my first coffee cupping event ever! If you are new to the world of coffee cupping (like me) I would describe it as kind of like wine tasting, but with coffee. In general “coffee cupping” is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee.
When you visit Larry’s Beans, it is always a fun filled experience. The event started off with the group of 40 or so coffee lovers being entertained by musicians playing the accordion and guitar in the beautiful open courtyard. Larry’s also had a nice healthy snack spread that featured plenty of their great coffee and their newly released cold brew coffee for the guests to try as they mingled before the cupping started.
After mingling for a bit, the group moved into the roasting facility for a brief educational presentation kicked off with Larry himself giving a little background about his passion for quality organic fair trade coffee and why he founded the company. From there Larry turned things over to Brad, the head roaster of Larry’s Beans. Brad did an excellent job of explaining the process of coffee cupping and set the stage for the three kinds of coffee we would be cupping that afternoon. The focus of this particular comparative cupping was three different coffees from Ethiopia.
Brad described the three different farms within the Sidama Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union in Ethiopia that were the source of the beans we would be cupping. The coffee we would be trying was harvested from the Schicho, Abela Gekuko, and Bona Cooperatives. He then highlighted the specific variations in process methods the coffee beans from each farm went through and and how different processing techniques impact flavor profiles.
A standard coffee cupping procedure involves three steps, sniffing the dry coffee grounds, “breaking the crust” after the hot water pour-over, and finally tasting or “slurping” the coffee. At each table there were three stations with three cups of carefully ground dry coffee from one of the three farms (you use three cups for each bean for consistency). The experts at Larry’s circulated the room and poured the hot water after participants had finished smelling the dried coffee grounds.
After pouring over the nearly boiling water we allowed the grinds to infuse for around 3-4 minutes. Then came the “breaking of the crust” which was expertly done by our hosts using spoons and we were instructed to again smell the coffee again as it has changed during the brewing process and will give hints of the kind of things to be looking out for when you do the actual tasting.
Once the crust was broken any coffee grounds left on top of the cup were scooped away. With the coffee infusion now clear of grinds, the slurping commenced! Essentially you simply bring a spoon of the coffee up to your mouth, and slurp, drawing the coffee to the roof of the mouth allowing it to tickle the tongue and then fall into the back of the mouth. The goal is to measure aspects of the coffee’s taste, specifically the body, sweetness, acidity, flavor, and aftertaste.
Since coffee beans embody telltale flavors from the region where they were grown, by evaluating coffees in a comparative setting like this a taster can learn to identify flavor traits of coffees from different origins. If you do enough cuppings you can even develop a reference library of flavors and taste sensations that can become a background against which you can examine new coffees. Over time a cupper can begin to associate particular flavors with geographical regions and different botanical varieties of coffee.
Although we were not trying to identify the origins since we already knew that information, ultimately the folks at my cupping table were able to identify the different flavor profiles and zero in on their favorite coffee of the three we tried. I can’t recall the exact name now, but my favorite was the coffee that exhibited hints of blueberry.
The folks at Larry’s Beans were great hosts and I recommend you try to attend a future event at their facility. I had a lot of fun attending this coffee cupping, especially since a few of my fellow foodie blogger friends where there to enjoy the experience with me. Special thanks to Kim @TriLocalista, Becca @theGourmez, and Channa @RaleighWhatsUp for attending the event with me. Make sure you check out their awesome blogs too to keep up on the Triangle foodie scene!
To view more pictures from my visit to Larry’s beans check out my flickr photo album of the coffee cupping event. To read more about Larry’s Beans you see my previous post of the facility tour or visit their website and facebook page.
About Larry’s Beans
Larry’s Beans is happily committed to blending and roasting innovative uniquely delicious coffees — and making the world a better place. 100% of their coffee is Fair Trade, Shade Grown, and Organic, all slow-roasted to bring out every note of indigenous flavor. Their green-o-vated facilities use passive solar construction, active solar systems, radiant floors, zoned heating, composting, and rainwater harvesting to minimize our impact on this awesome planet. They offer 15 Creative Blends and 15 Single-Origin Blends, along with limited-roast favorites like Rockin’ Holiday Blend and Woodstock Blend.