coffee tasting

How to be a gastro-snob

I take great pride in being a coffee snob, but I’m not one of those people who complies copious volumes of “tasting notes” trying to identify nuanced flavours like berry, or citrus, or caramel, or dark chocolate. But if you want to be that type of person, in any field of gastrononomy, here are some tips.

  1. Use your nose “Our tongues are equipped to experience only salty, bitter, sour and sweet flavors, plus umami, a newish term we borrowed from the Japanese to define a savory tasting sensation… Flavor — the citrusy essence of lemongrass, that lusty smokiness of chipotle peppers — comes mainly via our nose, he says, and largely through what’s known as retronasal or orthonasal smelling.”
  2. Develop a mental flavour bank – “Get in the habit of tasting all the ingredients that go into a dish you’re cooking before it’s made… so you can see what they’re like raw and cooked in certain ways and with certain components.”
  3. Practice identifying flavours in your own words “Wine tasting, you might have noticed, is big on cognition of a certain kind: a vocabulary of comparison, all that jazz about wine tasting like oak and petroleum and passion fruit and cat pee. Having “the balls”… to put what you’re tasting into new adjectives is what makes great tasters, great tasters. But the rest of us usually just learn the old adjectives that turn into jargon, usually by tasting something that is already agreed-upon to be apple-y or citrusy or whatever — Merlot and plums, Riesling and petroleum — rather than trying to pick it out ourselves.”

Package deal

Coffee tasters love finding nuanced flavours in bean varieties – and they can at times seem a stretch… other times they can punch you in the face. There’s a particular bean I like that tastes almost exclusively like blueberry.

Square Mile Coffee are a roaster/cafe of some repute – with involvement from a couple of previous World Barista Champions – they label their coffee with a tag cloud to demonstrate different flavour notes in their beans. I like it. It’s clever. Particularly this underlying idea – that didn’t get off the ground (yet).

We did have an idea of a microsite that allowed customers to input their cupping notes into the site to constantly update a swirling live tag cloud of the espresso. Crowd sourcing descriptors seemed like fun! However that probably won’t happen as the cloud would only really become useful when enough people enter data and at that point the espresso would be close to the end of its run as a seasonal blend.

Scroll to Top