What are tasting notes? Or can coffee taste like lima beans?
If you take a look at our bags, you’ll see tasting notes listed, with a few descriptors, for example, on Sunrise Tiger, you’ll see tasting notes of chocolate, sweet, and cherry, or one of our newest coffees, Garmindo, with grapefruit, sweet and rich.
Is your coffee flavored?
We get this question a lot, and we never have and never will add any flavoring to our coffee -- it’s packed with so many flavors already.
Where do flavor notes come from?
There are so many flavors that are naturally occurring in coffees. Our job as a specialty coffee roaster is to highlight and show off different flavors found in a bean of green coffee. As coffee is grown, many events can change the flavor:
- Where coffee is grown
- What variety of coffee (think of the difference between a Red Delicious versus a Honeycrisp apple)
- When and how the coffee cherry is harvested
- How the coffee cherry is processed and dried
- How we roast it can highlight or hide some of these flavors
- How it’s brewed
All of these steps are factors in the final flavor that comes out of the coffee. Scientists have examined coffee and determined over 2000 flavor compounds (currently less than wine and more than beer). When we taste things like chocolate, we taste very similar or the same things in chocolate that give it its chocolate flavor! Coffee that tastes sweet doesn’t have any sugar in it, just molecules that trick our minds into thinking of sugar -- pretty cool, huh?
How do we come up with Tasting notes?
Every batch of coffee that we roast is tasted(formal coffee tasting is called a coffee cupping). Each week we are tasting many different coffees, making sure they are consistent batch to batch and true to what we intend them to do be. We think about the big flavors first and then get smaller and more descriptive. If you have done a tasting with us, you might recognize this mini-tasting wheel:
Or this more extensive, more detailed wheel of flavor (courtesy of The Specialty Coffee Association of America). For a better view of the Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel, learn more here: https://scanews.coffee/2016/02/05/how-to-use-the-coffee-tasters-flavor-wheel-in-8-steps/
On the flavor wheel, you usually start with the inside flavors categories and move outward. And it’s possible for exciting flavor combinations!
Don’t forget, identifying flavors in coffee takes practice, like most things in life.
How to get started on your coffee adventure
Tasting and describing coffee can be a fun, science-led adventure. One great way to get started is to train yourself to recognize some of the core flavors in coffee and then branch out.
Try these mini flavor experiments:
- Bright Acidity: Put a few drops of lemon juice in a glass of water, taste it, then taste the coffee; any similarities?
- Savory/Unami: If you feel extra adventurous, put soy sauce or msg in some water, and sip on it, comparing it to coffee. You might be surprised how many coffees are savory.
P.S. Coffee can taste like Lima Beans. Check out our post on social media and respond with the craziest flavor you have tasted in brewed coffee -- we will respond with a prize and a mention online in the coming weeks :)