What Are Coffee Tastings And Where Can You Do Them?

Touted by modern society as a productivity elixir, coffee has long been considered a bitter means to a more energized end. But as interest in specialty coffee has continued to grow in recent years, entire communities have been built around the consumption of the beloved beverage, giving rise to coffee culture. "Coffee is as popular as it is because it is a social currency," José Sette, the executive director of the International Coffee Organization, told BBC. "It brings people together."

One way coffee enthusiasts share community and learn more about the drink they love is with coffee tastings. The aim is to evaluate several different types of coffee based on four characteristics: aroma, body, acidity, and flavor. While coffee producers and buyers use a standardized tasting technique called cupping to score coffee beans, tastings are more about enjoying the coffee and learning to recognize its different characteristics using specific tasting steps.

Because taste and smell go hand in hand, the first step of coffee tasting is to smell it. Once you've identified familiar aromas, it's time to take the first sip. Rather than a graceful gulp, however, the idea is to audibly slurp the coffee, allowing it to fully coat your palette. While holding the coffee in your mouth, locate where the flavors play on your tongue. Because tasting is meant to be a social event, the final step is to describe the coffee's key characteristics.

Where can you do a coffee tasting

As more people become well-versed in the coffee world, many coffee houses and producers have started offering tastings across the country. Counter Culture Coffee, a specialty coffee roaster based in North Carolina, has training centers that offer free tastings and cupping courses in Durham, Asheville, Atlanta, San Francisco, Boston, Charleston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, and Washington D.C. Chicago-based coffee house Intelligentsia also offers free cupping classes at its training facilities in the windy city, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, and Austin. In coffee hubs like Portland and Denver, many local coffee shops also host free coffee tastings for patrons, so it's worth calling your local cafes to find out if there are free tastings offered in your area.

If you can't find a location to do a coffee tasting near you, try getting some friends together for a virtual tasting. Bean Hoppers Coffee offers a virtual coffee-tasting experience complete with mailed coffee samples, information packets, and a virtual Zoom guide. You can even host your own coffee tasting at home using some basic cupping techniques. Simply choose four different roasts, grind the beans, and put each variety in a different cup. Allow each cup to steep in 200-degree water for four minutes before scraping the grinds and foam from the top. Follow the tasting steps previously outlined, and impress all your friends with your coffee know-how.