Coffee Tasting

10 Jun

I’m beginning to think that I’m drinking too much coffee for my own good. My stomach feels sour, I’m tired, have headaches, and am super-dehydrated. What’s worse, I’m drinking less alcohol. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?

Coffee for me exists on a dichotomy: I love the cheap, quick stuff from Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds, coffee that serves as a quick pick-me-up in the mornings. Love it or hate it, fast food and donut coffee is all about drinkability. It’s delicious, inoffensive, easy on the body, and cheap. It’s also probably the healthiest item I’ll be having for breakfast.

I also love the artisanal, “third wave” varietals of coffee, beans that hail from single sources in Guatemala, Ethiopia, et al. These are coffees that have body, that have character, and have a “2” after the dollar sign.

Despite their price, I still consider artisanal coffees to be a bargain because I view them from a wine perspective. $17.95 for a pound of India Peaberry from Peet’s? Well, that’s about 30-35 cups of joe. $17.95 will get me a nice wine that will yield maybe four or five glasses.

Gourmet coffee is nice because they have loads of complexity. In fact, some people state that coffees are harder to “taste” because their taste compounds are more volatile than those of wine: this adds to the fun for me.

I’m not alone. “Cuppings”–the coffee equivalent of tastings–are becoming popular in coffee shops all across the nation. I had the opportunity to go to one at my local Peet’s on Sunday, where they were showcasing this year’s Guatemala San Sebastian (apparently Alfred Peet’s favorite) and their Anniversary Blend, which is a mix of different beans from Latin America.

Along for the ride were the original coffee drinkers of my family: my mom and dad. We got to Peet’s just in time to see Ryan, the super-knowledgeable barista, set up two French press pots. My mom was excited about the tasting; my dad went next door to get a cup of the SoHo coffee blend from Noah’s Bagels.

We got two-ounce tasting cups. First, the San Sebastian. I could taste only some chocolate, some bitterness; it was full and round to the point of flabbiness. Nothing really struck me about the coffee. I tried the Anniversary Blend next: huge difference. Bright, lively, with acidity that was quite noticeable after the rounder, softer Guatemalan. There was a lot of citrus in the Anniversary Blend. My mom and I both agreed that this was the winner.

But we spoke too soon. I got refills of both after a few minutes. This time, the Anniversary Blend seemed bland, almost, and the acidity that I had initially enjoyed became detracting. On the other hand, the Guatemalan really started to come together. The flabbiness was gone, with the coffee showing more definition and substance in the mouth. There were many different notes of dark chocolate, like eating pieces of chocolate from 62%, 70%, 82% cacao bars. The finish showed herbs–especially boiled ginseng, which you might never have had unless you grew up in an Asian household!

I wanted a cup of the Guatemalan, but Ryan hooked my family up with a huge 40-something-ounce French press for free instead “as a sample”. Awesome. It’s a coffee that I pair with greasy breakfasts or just take alone on some gray rainy day.


One Response to “Coffee Tasting”


  1. How Getting Wisdom Teeth Pulled is Good for the Specialty Coffee Industry « Vinicultured: A Wine Blog - June 24, 2008

    […] San Sebastian was the darkest roast of my three favorites–I wrote about it in a previous post. The Los Delirios was mild, with caramel notes and clear, pleasant acidity. I would probably pick […]

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