Mastering the Art of Cupping in Brazil

The Foodish Boy gets immersed in coffee culture at Daterra, Brazil's first sustainable coffee farm

The Foodish Boy continues his culinary adventures, working at Daterra, the first sustainable coffee farm in Brazil.

Next is taste. You take a decent spoonful of the coffee liquor and slurp it into your mouth (the slurp helps aerate the liquor and release the flavors). The coffee is then swirled around your mouth before spitting the liquid into a cup. Finally the tasting step is repeated taking into account attributes of mouthfeel, overall quality, and consistency. Coffee tasting is certainly not a graceful activity, and going about the process shyly will result in either not tasting much or dribbling a lot of coffee down your shirt.

My test started well. Amazingly I was able to pick out certain aromas in the coffee. But the more I started to think about certain aspects, the more confused I got. "Did I just get a hint of chocolate? Or wait… was that vanilla? Oh Christ… maybe it was chocolate after all." And when I moved on to tasting, things got even more confusing; trying to mark for acidity, aftertaste, body, balance, and other attributes on one slurp was extremely difficult. While the master cupper whizzed around the table, I took several attempts to make up my mind. Then there was the problem of marking everything out of 10. With no prior cupping experience what the hell was I supposed to compare it against?

An hour or so later I looked over my charts, feeling completely hopeless and a bit of a fool. Finally came the moment of truth. I sat down with the master taster to compare our notes. To everyone’s surprise we had pretty similar scores and remarks. My only serious slip-up was scoring the best quality coffee with the lowest mark. But as the taster explained, an extremely complex coffee is different on every taste, so while he rewarded this with a high score, I had become frustrated and confused and scored it low.

The master cupper was so pleased with my effort that he said he had a little surprise in store for me. Initially, I thought this was a trip the edge of the estate to watch one final beautiful sunset. But little did I know the treat was yet to come…

 
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On my last morning Daterra had selected a tree for me to plant — a variety chosen especially for its name Capitano Janitar (Captain Dinner) — they assured me despite their best attempts they could not find a Foodish Boy species. "No matter where you are in the world Alex, you will always have roots in Brazil. Our home is now your home," Gabriel told me. Teary eyed, I thanked the team for an incredible week. In Brazil they say to become eternal you need to do three things: Plant a tree, write a book, and have children. One down. Two to go…