Discovering the Coffee Bean
by Nicole Carlozo -- November 8th, 2010
I know I shouldn’t feed my growing addiction to caffeine, but what about educational, environmentally-friendly coffee? That can’t hurt, right?
Midterms have come and gone, and finals are right around the corner. As I prepare for the final stretch, I can’t help but notice my ever increasing reliance on my good friend the coffee bean. He’s there on Monday morning, dragging me to school for my 8am lecture; he’s there in the afternoon when I need a pick-me up in lieu of a nap; and he’s there in the evening, spreading love through a coffee tasting.
If you’re wondering if coffee tastings are part of the normal routine here at the Nicholas School, I’m sorry to disappoint. Last week, however, I procrastinated just a bit and attended a “coffee cupping” put on by Counter Culture Coffee and WGLEA, the student-run Working Group for the Environment in Latin America. If you’ve ever been to a wine tasting, then a “coffee cupping” will feel familiar, although the products originate from countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, and Ethiopia.
As earthy, fruity, nutty, and sweet aromas filled the auditorium, we were asked to identify fragrances, aromas, flavors, acidity levels, body/feel, and aftertaste along all steps of the brewing process. Students shouted out content:encodeds such as cherry, tobacco, fruity, rich, chocolate, and vanilla. Several participants even offered the comical, albeit true, content:encoded of “burnt toast.”
Counter Culture Coffee’s Sustainability and Producer Relations Manager Kim Bullock led us through the process, and while she patiently waited for everyone to finish their smelling, tasting, and critiquing, I couldn’t help but wonder “why?” I’ve never thought of myself as a coffee snob, and I often drink anything convenient, from Dunkin Donuts roasts to coffee brewed at the local gas station. Why was this process important?
And then, Kim delved into the origins of their various beans, grown on small 10-acre, organic farms across Latin America. She spoke about technique, quality, place and, most importantly, the people involved. The significance of the “cupping” and critiquing was wrapped in the producers, as well as how and where the coffee was harvested and produced.
My favorite of the 4 coffees: Finca Mauritania Cascara, made by steeping the dried fruit of the coffee cherry in hot water. Cascara tastes like warm cherry tea, a milder-tasting caffeinated beverage than its roasted bean alternatives. What does this say about me? I think I’m ready to break away from the everyday cup of joe.