Friday, May 30, 2008

Cupping: Describe That Joe

A Cupping Coffee Tasting at Café Grumpy in Chelsea, NYC

Swirl, sniff...inhale the bouquet?

Well, even though wine tastings seem to have become less pretentious in recent years, it’s still rare to hear a popular choice compared to Cinnamon Almond Toast Crunch cereal. But at coffee tastings — known to aficionados as cuppings — there seems to be a lot more room for whimsy.

One Monday night at Joe, a West Village cafe, a group of coffee enthusiasts crowded around a coffee barista, as if they were graduate students and she were a professor. The eight New Yorkers, who had paid $20 apiece to taste three coffees, each from a different country, listened intently.

They sniffed and slurped. Then came the tricky part: finding the right words to describe the flavors.

"Cuppings used to be this professional-only activity that coffee buyers did," says Mark Overbay, the marketing manager for Counter Culture Coffee, a boutique roaster in Durham, N.C., that supplies cafes and restaurants like the Spotted Pig here in NYC. "But we see it as more of a taste exploration, more like a wine tasting."

For the curious, New York now offers more opportunities to cup than ever before. In 2004, the city had only a few third-wave coffee shops. Today, there are at least a dozen, 80 percent of which sponsor cuppings.

Read more about the art of "cupping," along with a video clip showing how it's done here

1 comment:

Lynn Sinclair said...

Considering the cost of a cup of coffee these days, $20 isn't a bad price for slurping the beans.