A wine tasting used to be an ideal way to spend a free afternoon and gain knowledge of the beverage world. Not anymore. Coffee cuppings, which involve sampling a series of coffees to better understand their unique characteristics, are taking over wine tastings as the best way to awaken your taste buds. What was once a ritual only for those who could discern ‘caramel’ flavors from ‘chocolate’ and ‘berry’, is now a pleasant event in which everyone with an interest in coffee can participate.
As high-end coffee shops open in every corner of America, the cupping is accessible to a wider audience. Cafés are no longer content to serve average beans, opting instead for popular gourmet roasters such as Counter Culture, based in North Carolina, and Intelligentsia, from Chicago. Both companies sell their beans wholesale to cafés, but you can also buy them for home brewing. Their labels read like those on a wine bottle, helping you to understand the nuances of each bean variety.
If snotty baristas and an unknown jargon make you tremble at the thought of going to a cupping, never fear. Spike Gjerde, founder of Artifact Coffee in Baltimore, explained to NPR that, “Baristas are like the sommeliers of their industry,” they can help people, “appreciate coffee for its individual characteristics, as we do wine." What next, coffee sommeliers?