Cupping form: 2nd draft

November 9, 2009

Thanks everyone who has commented both here and through other channels.

The new draft involves scoring each point a number between 1 and 5, (instead of Low-medium-high) still regarding intensity – not quality. The idea filling-out-wise is to either circle 1 or 5, or write the score you’d like to give it in the space between.Bitterness has also been replaced by aftertaste.

The first paragraph is now a dry-wet-break-thingy, so small that i recommend the use of symbols. (I.e. my symbols are ranked in the following order: –,-,(-),(+),+,++,(*),*,**,***) I guess numbers would work as well, they’re just not as fun.


A new cupping form: First draft

November 5, 2009

Working with the SCAE Gold Cup research group, I’m trying to put together a good coffee scoring sheet for different extractions of the same coffee. Which takes me back to question how we score and note coffees ourselves.

Cupping at Kaffemisjonen, we started out using the CoE scoring sheet to describe and score our coffees. But after a while we stopped scoring them all together. It seemed to take focus away from actually analyzing the coffee. It’s designed to help you rank hundreds of coffees from the same country, not to help you decide what coffees to buy the next week in your coffee shop.’

I still think forms are a good way of standardizing cupping notes, which makes communication easier as to how you rank a coffee. So I made one(click image for pdf-version):

cupping form

The first part, “aroma”, is simply open space to put your taste descriptors. The second section is mouthfeel, which I have divided into four subcategories: body, minerality, viscosity and uniformity. The three first are to be scored from Low to High – the last as to how long the mouthfeel persists (a.k.a. deveolops as the coffee gets colder – does it keep it’s traits or transform quickly?).

Third section is taste. Sweetness is asked to be categorized as mostly towards Sugar Browning (Caramel, Vanilla, Chocolate, nuts etc) og mostly towards Enzymatic (Fruit, berries, florals, etc), then scored from low to high. Acidity, Bitterness and balance from Low to high.

Fourth section is complexity/development. Again you score the firs two according to how much it is. The last part is for graphing your experience with the coffee as time passes. Would you score it high or low at the first sip? How does it cooling down effect your experience with it?

At Kaffemisjonen we always cup coffees blindly. When the coffees are revealed, we rarely add anything to our notes apart from the names. However evaluating the coffee again when we know where it origins from, is also important information. “vs origin” reflects on weither it’s transparent (T)(easily detectable from origin, varietal and processing) or original(O)(Which by all means can be exciting as well). “vs expectations” goes to everything else, be it reputation of farm/roaster, someone elses opinion etc. The last part is for cuppers’ comments.

It’s just a first draft, and I already see some weaknesses with it. It needs a box for aftertaste, the scoring system needs to be more differentiated,  the word “length” should be substituted with “time” etc. But it’s along the lines i want to go with this I think.

Comments are very welcome as to where to take this further.

Cup of Excellence debate: How well are money spent

September 23, 2009

Klaus Thomsen blogged the following about the Nordic Barista Cup in Iceland:

My favourite moment was during the Q&A; when someone asked whether some of the money the farmer gets paid throught the CoE auction could be ear-marked to improve the quality of their coffee. You could feel this is something Susie feels strongly about when she answered: “No! Why should we decide how they spend their money? We don’t want anyone to decide how we spend our money, do we?”

I think it’s such a common misconception that the farmers don’t know what they are doing and that we from the rich west should help them manage their farms. Most of the farmers I’ve met know what they are doing. They know better than anyone what equipment is missing or needs replacing at their farm. They know if a new house for their family of a new de-pulper is most needed. Not us! We need to build a relationship with farmers based on that we are equals. Not that we should micro-manage their income. Now, if we can provide assistance and education to help them improve their own economy that’s great, but let’s start with paying them appropriately for their quality coffee.

Being the one who asked the question, I feel obliged to comment further. The background was a visit a few years ago to a CoE#1 winner, a trip I was looking so much forward to as it was one of my all time favourite coffees at that time. The disappointment was huge. They didn’t appear to have invested any of the vast sum of money they earned in the farm.

yes, all good. but how do we spend the money?

The argument presented by Susie Spindler was that noone are entitled to tell the farmers how to spend their paychecks. (“I know I wouldn’t allow anyone to tell me”)

I see it differently. First of all the money paid to the farmer isn’t his paycheck. It’s part of that particular farm’s received payment for the coffee harvested that year.It’s the farm’s income, and it’s main feature is to pay the farm’s expenses – among them the farmer’s salary.

It’s not just a discussion on how we can get all good coffee farmers to think about quality, but also how we can make sure the best ones do even better. I agree with Klaus that most farmers know how to spend their money in a good way to improve their farm, but I am also sure there are other examples than my own experience that CoE-winners might never use that money to improve coffee quality. And my argument is that these might be farms with exceptional terroir that might not yet show it’s full potential. The farm I visited was an example of that terroir going to waste.

If we can force the top 20 coffee producers in a country to spend 15-20% of it’s profit from the CoE to improve facilities  at the farm,  they might be angry at us, as they might be angry at government regulations and taxes. I just fail to see why we should care more about that than improving coffee quality in general.

International weeks

August 18, 2009

September looks to be an exciting month for us at Kaffemisjonen.

We normally buy our coffee from four different roasters, all Norwegian: Kaffa, Tim Wendelboe, Supreme Roastworks and Solberg & Hansen. We cup their coffees blindly every week, basing what we buy the following week on those results.

For september however we want to try something different. We’ve invited our three favourite european roasters outside of Norway to be our sole supplier for one week each. We’ve chosen Square Mile(UK), Koppi(Sweden) and The Coffee Collective(Denmark). We’ve asked them to supply four different coffees as espresso, as well as their full sortiment to put on our shelves and brew as filter coffee.

We’ve also asked them to roast their favourite coffee from America and it’s African counterpart on a particular roast date, which we will then compare blindly at the end of september to each other and two norwegian coffees chosen by our cuppers. The winner of the two categories will receive the Kaffemisjonen European Coffee of the Year award 2009.

To help us choose we’ve already invited Charles Babinski of Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea in Chicago. He will also work a few shifts at our bar, which I’m really looking forward to. Mette-Marie Hansen of Kaffa is also coming. Anyone else who’d like to join us are very welcome!

First post: Great scandinavian coffee bars

August 14, 2009

I’ve made a google map of my favourite coffee bars in Scandinavia. The bar has been set quite high when it comes to selection and logistics of beans, served coffee drinks and general coffee knowledge – as opposed to other things that might be equally important (like service, magazine selection and comfy chairs) but not as relevant for this blog.

Comments are welcome, as well as suggestions to where I should go next with this. I orignally intended to score them as well but it became to hard to stay objective towards my own shops.