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Perfect Cupping Note

There is a concept that we frequently encounter in the coffee world: Tasting notes. We often see tasting notes such as "chocolate", "fruity", "caramel" on speciality coffee packages. These notes give clues about the flavour profile of the coffee. However, I think there is an important point to note here: There is no such thing as a perfect tasting note. And why is that?

Our senses are personal and subjective. This becomes more apparent in the senses of taste and smell. For example, when two people taste the same coffee, the flavours and sensations can be different. The main reason for this is that sensory experiences differ individually. Each individual's sensitivity to taste and smell varies due to past experiences, cultural and genetic differences. In one study, it was reported that 100 people who tasted the same coffee could give 100 different descriptions of it. Some may taste fruity notes in the coffee, while others may taste chocolate or hazelnut. This diversity shows how personal our senses of taste and smell are.


Our senses of taste and smell are defined on the basis of old references. This means that what one person identifies as the taste of "chocolate" may not appeal to another person in the same way. For example, one person may find the flavour of dark chocolate dominant, while another person may feel that the flavour of milk chocolate is more pronounced. This is one of the most important reasons why tasting notes vary from person to person. In an experiment to explain this difference, participants tasted different coffee samples and took notes for each sample. The results showed that most participants perceived different flavours and gave different descriptions even for the same coffee. This suggests that tasting notes vary based on personal experience and are not universally accurate.


I personally experienced the most recent example of this in Fabiana Carvalho's training. Although we drank the same coffee, due to our perceptions and senses other than the sense of taste, we experienced different flavours in a prejudiced way because they were in different packages.


Compared to visual senses, it is possible to see that the senses of taste and smell work differently. When you say "red" to someone, almost everyone thinks of a certain colour. Similarly, when you say "round", a certain shape appears in the mind. These visual references are quite universal and vary very little from person to person. However, this is not the case with the senses of taste and smell.


When we hear or read the word "chocolate", it is not possible to get that flavour in our palate. When I say "Don't think of the blue elephant!", you think of a blue elephant, but when I say lemon, you don't get dazzled. Therefore, the tasting notes on the packs are only a guide and may vary with individual experiences. This different functioning of the senses of taste and smell is related to the way our brain processes these senses. Visual information is processed more directly and clearly in our brains, whereas taste and smell information is processed in a more complex and individual experience-dependent way. Therefore, visual references are considered more universal, whereas taste and smell references are more personal and variable.


With this in mind, feel free to use your creativity when tasting coffee. Tasting notes can help you discover the potential flavour profile of the coffee, but the final experience depends on your palate. By going beyond tasting notes, you can make your own sensory discoveries and personalise your coffee enjoyment. Creating your own references in coffee tasting can be an excellent way to discover new flavours and aromas. By experiencing a new coffee each time, you can build your own flavour profile and make coffee tasting more fun and personal. Remember, coffee tasting is an art and every artist creates their own unique work.


There is no such thing as a perfect tasting note because the senses are personal and shaped by individual experiences. Everyone's perception is different, as our senses of taste and smell are defined on the basis of old references. The tasting notes on the packs are only a guide and the final experience depends on your taste buds. Therefore, use your creativity when tasting coffee and discover your own flavour profile. The best way to do this is to join a roaster cupping, who is part of a wider coffee network than your own, and become part of a more universal palate chain.


Moral of the story: Everyone is welcome to our open tastings. ;)


References


  1. "The Science of Taste: Why We Perceive Flavors Differently" - A Comprehensive Guide on Sensory Perception and Flavor Identification. Journal of Sensory Studies, 2018.

  2. "Flavor Perception: Recent Advances and Trends" - Exploring the Complexity of Taste and Smell. Chemical Senses, 2020.

  3. "Individual Differences in Taste and Smell" - Analyzing Genetic and Environmental Influences on Sensory Perception. Frontiers in Psychology, 2019.

  4. "How Culture Shapes Flavor Perception" - The Role of Cultural Background in Taste Experiences. Food Quality and Preference, 2021.

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