Learning the art of cupping

cupping Thanks to 5 Senses Coffee, I am officially a coffee snob. As part of The Rocks Aroma Festival this month, I spent an hour at the Comparative Cupping Workshop learning about the journey of a coffee bean to your takeaway cup. The method of ‘cupping’ refers to how and why coffee roasters use to choose the beans they buy.

Ben Bicknell, from 5 Senses Coffee, a.k.a our coffee Messiah, talked us through the art of cupping, and why it’s so important to maintain consistency during the cupping process. From the amount of beans used per sample, to the amount of boiling water added, and the time left to brew.

Roasters will choose to buy a lot of beans from a certain region if each of the five samples of the coffee look, smell and taste the same. If the process is tainted by, for example, one cup with a lesser amount of water which will give a stronger taste and aroma, the roaster assumes there’s something different/wrong about it. An origin that could have been the hero of all coffee, and we’ve missed out!

Aroma plays a huge role in cupping, it’s all about how the coffee appeals to your senses, and whether it can maintain its same flavour as it cools – a tell-tale sign of a decent bean. Taking our turn at being the selection committee, we each took turns first smelling the dry grind of each five samples of eight different and anonymous origins, and wrote down any key features from each. Step two is adding boiling water, the exact same amount in each cup, then leaving to brew for four minutes. Four very painful and tempting minutes, where the smell of coffee was making me very edgy; all my own fault though, I should have had a coffee before attending the workshop.

Oh, sweet heaven, the smell was divine.

The time finally came to taste the samples! Though much to my detriment, my friend Ben insisted that we a) slurp the coffee and b) spit it out.

cupping workshopI have a personal hatred of any person making noise when eating or drinking, so with every fibre of my being shaking with sheer annoyance, I along with the 10 other people slurped our spoon-full of coffee… and spat it out. Though I managed to gulp down a few sneaky sips.

I had picked my favourite coffee, and once the cupping was over, we learned where each came from. It’s interesting to learn how different regions can produce such varying flavoured beans. It’s based on climate, soil and the drying-out process.

Some facts:

Coffee beans are not beans, but a seed from a cherry-type fruit.

Some beans are dried with the fruit on them known as the dry or unwashed process, which takes longer and might cost the roaster more money.

Others are stripped of the fruit and dried, called a natural process.

Turns out, Colombian coffee is my pick, so if you’ll excuse me it’s time to do some research about which cafès in Sydney sell Colombian coffee.

There’s a whole bunch of amazing workshops being held throughout the remainder of July. Aroma Day on July 26th down at The Rocks Sydney where you’ll be able to sample various coffees, and they won’t make you spit it out.

For more information, head to The Rocks Aroma Festival Website.

And for more on 5 Senses Coffee, check them out here: http://www.fivesenses.com.au.



 Words and pictures by Annastasia Robertson.