The specialty coffee scene is a wide world of exciting flavors and tasting notes, but it can feel overwhelming if you're new to discovering your palate.
Let's talk about language. In the specialty coffee world, "flavored" coffee, or coffee with artificially added flavor, is rare. Makeworth Coffee Roasters never flavors our coffee beans — the tasting notes you experience come from the region, the process, the bean variety, the roast, and the brewing method.
So how do we select which tasting notes are most prominent and relevant to the bag of beans you purchase? Our roasters perform a coffee cupping, where they intentionally taste and smell each coffee and note the flavors that come through. While it can take time to perfect the art of flavor identification, with some guidance and practice, anyone can improve their palate. But why?
When you know what flavors and tasting notes you prefer, buying coffee for your home brew set-up becomes much more fun. Each bag is an adventure — will you choose a roast with green apple and guava notes, like our washed Guatemala, or dark chocolate and tangerine, like our Honduras offering? Do you prefer a nuttier, cocoa flavor, or do you lean more towards floral, sweet coffee? And how do you begin to distinguish these flavors?
Our head roaster Tim suggests a trip to the grocery store. He says, by picking one of each fruit, you can try recognizing a myriad of flavors that occur in coffee beans. So head to your local grocer and pick out some strawberries, blueberries, kiwis, apricots... and begin to notice their differences and similarities. This is called "comparative tasting". Which fruits are more acidic? Which are sweeter? Which do you prefer, and why? And write it down! Keeping notes of your tasting journey is one of the best ways to improve your palate long-term.
Pictured here is an example of a tasting wheel. Tasting wheels can be a huge tool in developing and recognizing flavors and can provide language for those newer to the world of flavor profiling.
Next time you have a cup of coffee, take a look at a tasting wheel and make a note of what flavors you pick up, and before you know it, you'll have the palate of an expert taster!