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  • Cupping for Milk based beverages

    From what I am reading and gathering from my sources there appears to be a little debate brewing between whether tasters / cafe owners / roasters and the akin should be cupping brewed coffee (traditional cupping method) or whether they should be cupping the espresso that provides the foundation to the coffees they serve in their designated cafes. Its an interesting debate - after all why cup brewed coffee if you dont serve brewed coffee. Nevertheless, it got me thinking...

    I guess, for me, the question relates to who your target market is. In Australia (and the US and UK for that matter) consumers love their milk; at least 80% of drinks sold are latte, fw, caps or macs. So...why not go that one step further and cup for milk based beverages? I have seen first hand many cafes trying to tap into the culinary market by offering single origins, yet very, very few people want to try them for various reasons. Thus, why not educate your customers through developing blends / marketing single origins with the purpose that milk will accentuate and complement the taste, rather than trying to get consumers to drink espressos? (i.e. do cap cupping not traditional cupping)

    Its surely about recognising your audience and market; promoting single origins connotates professionalism and expertise, but is it financially viable? What percentage of your market will be attracted to single origins? What not approach from the other side, and offer the 80% of customers (the milkers) an opportunity to try additional blends that will complement the milk - and educate them once they are on board


    ...thats my 50cents worth any way.

    any thoughts?

  • #2
    Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

    I responded on this point at length on the other thread.  Any bets the response was too long and presumably people wont actually read it for that reason, so Ill have a go at making the point more succinctly.

    This is a false dichotomy.  The argument goes that the coffees that taste best in cupping are not the ones that taste best as espresso with milk added.  That much is pretty much true.  The argument continues that therefore cupping is useless if your goal is to make an espresso blend, particularly a blend for milk.  That is false.  It is false because it tries to equate cupping with particular characteristics of coffee.  Cupping is not a set of characteristics; it is a process that is used to analyse characteristics of coffee.  There is no reason why you cant use that process to look for characteristics that are best suited for espresso or for milk drinks.

    Part of the argument against using cupping in the context of espresso is that coffee tasted through cupping tastes different from coffee tasted through espresso.  This is obvious and its a bit odd that people seem to be reacting as though this is a new and cutting edge insight.  Whilst coffee tasted through cupping might not taste identical to coffee tasted as espresso, it is the same coffee that is being tasted and the two flavours are related.  Relating the two together is part of the skill of a good roaster.  Frankly, its not actually that difficult.  If a coffee has poor body in the cupping bowl, it will have poor body as espresso.  If a coffee has low acidity in the cupping bowl, it will have low acidity in espresso.  Part of the skill of a good roaster is simply in knowing what to look for.  If you want a coffee that is big bodied and low acid for your milk drink, you can easily select that by cupping a bunch of samples.  

    There are a few more points above.  One is the question of who should be cupping.  My view is that coffee roasters hold themselves out as having expertise in coffee and they take money from consumers for selling their product.  I think that this creates an ethical obligation on coffee roasters to actually know what they are talking about.  The key thing is that they actually produce and sell decent coffee, not that they use the cupping process to do so.  That said, the cupping process has a lot of logistical advantages when used for both coffee selection and quality control and my strong impression is that the roasters that I know actually do it deliver a better product than the roasters that I suspect do not.  But why should consumers cup?  I dont think that there is any reason at all that consumers should cup unless they are interested in coffee.

    Another point raised above is the question of what blends should roasters be putting out there.  This is a question of taste for each roaster to decide for themselves and, of course, consumers will select what they like the most (if they look, that is).  I think that most roasters understand the point that the public preference in most places is for big bodied, sweet, low acid blends.  Most roasters have a "chocolate bar" kind of blend and I imagine that it is probably the biggest seller for practically any roaster.  Not having such a blend would probably be commercial suicide.  What I dont understand is why some roasters seem to offer a lot of blends (or single origins, for that matter) that dont actually taste all that different from each other.  IMHO, the ability to present different coffees that taste very different from each other is one of the hallmarks of a good roaster.  I understand the whole idea of single origin and am interested in it, but I dont understand why roasters dont let their tastebuds guide them into creating limited edition blends that taste good.  Why do all blends have to be something that sits there unchangingly?  To give an example, I cupped a good number of Kenyan coffee samples with a roaster about a month ago.  There were four that were particularly good, but none were particularly complex.  So we did the obvious and blended together three of them.  Sacrilege?  It seems that people might think so.  But the blend is delicious!  Single origins are interesting and great, but why does there have to be such a steep divide between blends of top secret components that roasters maintain forever and single origins?  To some extent, isnt offering single origins at the expense of blends just laziness?  And, whilst were at it, why the hell is it that in most places single origins are more expensive than blends?  I mean, by definition the blends take more effort to produce - theyre blended!  So are roasters putting crappier stuff in the blends, or are they simply creating an illusion that single origins are by definition a premium product?  Why not sell an expensive blend of top notch coffees and identify them as such?

    Finally, can we stop using "cupping" as a synonym for "tasting"?  A tasting of a bunch of cappuccinos is a tasting, it is not a cupping.  This is not to say that one is better or worse than the other, it is just a recognition that cupping is a particular process.  "Tasting" is a perfectly good word for tasting by means other than the cupping process, so can we just call a tasting a tasting so as to remove confusion?

    OK, so maybe that wasnt short, but at least it was shorter!

    Cheers,
    Luca

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

      Originally posted by 243D2B29480 link=1251482092/1#1 date=1251495839
      Finally, can we stop using "cupping" as a synonym for "tasting"?A tasting of a bunch of cappuccinos is a tasting, it is not a cupping.This is not to say that one is better or worse than the other, it is just a recognition that cupping is a particular process."Tasting" is a perfectly good word for tasting by means other than the cupping process, so can we just call a tasting a tasting so as to remove confusion?
      100% Yes.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

        Originally posted by 425E5E415A3B0 link=1251482092/2#2 date=1251496424
        Originally posted by 243D2B29480 link=1251482092/1#1 date=1251495839
        Finally, can we stop using "cupping" as a synonym for "tasting"?A tasting of a bunch of cappuccinos is a tasting, it is not a cupping.This is not to say that one is better or worse than the other, it is just a recognition that cupping is a particular process."Tasting" is a perfectly good word for tasting by means other than the cupping process, so can we just call a tasting a tasting so as to remove confusion?
        100% Yes.
        Make that 200%...

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

          Ill keep calling what I do "Cupping"... 8-)

          Even though I am not trained in the gentile art, or even use the standardised data collection form, I do my best to delineate, discriminate and describe what my olfactory senses are telling me. Since most of my coffee these days is as an espresso or an espresso based milk drink, I "cup" using an espresso based Lungo to start off and then add milk in additional cups though the session. This works for me and I believe is significantly more intensive than a simple "tasting".....

          Cheers,
          Mal.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

            It seems to me the storm in a coffee cup is all about definitions.

            Wine tasting can either be a casual visit to a winery, or a judging at a world competition.

            Maybe cupping is a specific process, maybe its comparative tasting related to coffee. Ill probably decide by the context--and use a functional definition.

            Greg
            If I sit on a table--that might just make it a chair.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

              Originally posted by 406D696568040 link=1251482092/4#4 date=1251527179
              Ill keep calling what I do "Cupping"... 8-)

              Even though I am not trained in the gentile art, or even use the standardised data collection form, I do my best to delineate, discriminate and describe what my olfactory senses are telling me. Since most of my coffee these days is as an espresso or an espresso based milk drink, I "cup" using an espresso based Lungo to start off and then add milk in additional cups though the session. This works for me and I believe is significantly more intensive than a simple "tasting".....

              Cheers,
              Mal.
              Thats pretty close to what I do

              KK

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages


                I agree with you Mal.

                From the little I know, people often say, "cupping, or cupping using the traditional method", which suggests there are other acceptable methods of doing so. People often go on to say how theyve cupped and if there were any confusion, surely a simple question/answer would enlighten those that are confused?

                My understanding of the term, "cupping" is that it is an umbrella definition for a variety of coffee tasting methods, and Im happy to stick with that.





                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                  Originally posted by 637A6C6E0F0 link=1251482092/1#1 date=1251495839
                  But why should consumers cup?I dont think that there is any reason at all that consumers should cup unless they are interested in coffee.
                  I completely agree - I just feel that there is an ever expanding niche that is interested in coffee but doesnt know where exactly to start. I feel that by offering a couple of blends or origins to taste that the cafe can differentiate itself from the competition, build rapport with customers and offer an educational and entertaining service. Back this up with blogs and emails and you could have a loyal following! Im not suggesting all the milk-based drinkers want to taste / cup, but there is a segment that i believe will respond positively to this opportunity.

                  Offering an educational serivce and unique tasting opportunities in relation to your competition obviously sets the cafe apart, and establishes a precedent that the cafe is serious about their coffee. I beleive my opinions are especially prevalent to those cafes outside Melbourne and Sydney, but thats is merely my own subjective view.

                  cheers

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                    Originally posted by 624F4B474A260 link=1251482092/4#4 date=1251527179
                    Ill keep calling what I do "Cupping"... 8-)

                    Even though I am not trained in the gentile art, or even use the standardised data collection form, I do my best to delineate, discriminate and describe what my olfactory senses are telling me. Since most of my coffee these days is as an espresso or an espresso based milk drink, I "cup" using an espresso based Lungo to start off and then add milk in additional cups though the session. This works for me and I believe is significantly more intensive than a simple "tasting".....
                    First of all, lets get this out of the way right at the beginning: Im not trying to be elitist, Im trying to be factual.  Cupping is a process.  You are not going through that process, therefore you are not cupping.  

                    I think that were back to the buzzword problem.  Clover and siphon also seem to be buzzwords at the moment.  Clover and siphon are types of brewed coffee in the same way that cupping is a type of tasting process.  If you can call tasting espresso "cupping," does that mean that the floodgates are also open to call pourover filter coffee clover or siphon?  Moka pot and aeropress can both deliver fairly concentrated coffee like espresso; can we now call moka pot coffee espresso?  

                    There are actually important differences between tasting coffee through cupping and as espresso, some of which I noted here.  Consequently, incorrect use of the word "cupping" can have important impacts on the meaning of what we try to communicate.  For example, person X posts that they have "cupped" a particular coffee and that it tasted ashy and astringent.  Person Y reading it thinks that it has been tasted through the cupping process.  In fact, the taste was actually due to person Xs poor barista skill - perhaps the espresso machine was running hot.  Person Y decides not to buy what was actually pretty good coffee.  Or, to give another example, person X posts that they have "cupped" a particular coffee and that it is good.  Person Y reads the post and buys some of that coffee.  In fact, the espresso extraction made it hard for person X to pick up the faint onset of mould; consequently, Y ends up buying coffee that tastes totally worthless after a few months.

                    The other side of all of this is whats wrong with the term "tasting"?  Its correct.  Theres nothing wrong with tasting.  People taste things all the time.  If you want something that sounds intensive, call it "evaluating" or a "taste evaluation."  That said, wine tastings, etc, are quite intensive.

                    On the point of intensiveness, I suppose that its worth pointing out that a large part of cupping in practice is about looking for consistency.  Consequently, cupping in the strictest sense involves tasting through at least five bowls of the same sample at the same time to evaluate consistency.  Roasters basically never do this when they put on public "cuppings" for people to taste coffee, but it is obviously pretty important in making a green purchasing decision or deciding whether to sell the coffee that they have roasted. This is actually a very important part of the process, and one that the public should be aware about.

                    Cheers,
                    Luca

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                      Originally posted by 47464D4C4951280 link=1251482092/8#8 date=1251529596
                      Originally posted by 637A6C6E0F0 link=1251482092/1#1 date=1251495839
                      But why should consumers cup?I dont think that there is any reason at all that consumers should cup unless they are interested in coffee.
                      I completely agree - I just feel that there is an ever expanding niche that is interested in coffee but doesnt know where exactly to start. I feel that by offering a couple of blends or origins to taste that the cafe can differentiate itself from the competition, build rapport with customers and offer an educational and entertaining service. Back this up with blogs and emails and you could have a loyal following! Im not suggesting all the milk-based drinkers want to taste / cup, but there is a segment that i believe will respond positively to this opportunity.

                      Offering an educational serivce and unique tasting opportunities in relation to your competition obviously sets the cafe apart, and establishes a precedent that the cafe is serious about their coffee. I beleive my opinions are especially prevalent to those cafes outside Melbourne and Sydney, but thats is merely my own subjective view.

                      cheers
                      Sure thing.

                      The key point is that consumers should never feel pressure to whip out a spoon, a set of 30 cupping bowls, a nez du cafe and a spectrophotometer in order to enjoy a simple cup of coffee. They should just be able to sit back and enjoy a simple cup of coffee and trust that the roaster has handled the relevant quality control - a concept that Im sure we all agree with. I dont think that consumers should ever feel pressured, intimidated or bamboozled; options to learn more about coffee are just that - options.

                      Cheers,
                      Luca

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                        Originally posted by 725F5B575A360 link=1251482092/4#4 date=1251527179
                        Ill keep calling what I do "Cupping"... 8-)

                        Even though I am not trained in the gentile art, or even use the standardised data collection form, I do my best to delineate, discriminate and describe what my olfactory senses are telling me. Since most of my coffee these days is as an espresso or an espresso based milk drink, I "cup" using an espresso based Lungo to start off and then add milk in additional cups though the session. This works for me and I believe is significantly more intensive than a simple "tasting".....

                        Cheers,
                        Mal.
                        With all due respect, I think thats just a little unhelpful. Cupping IS tasting. It is tasting follow a pretty rigorous set of protocols.

                        Applying the term cupping to any form of coffee-related tasting is just going to create more confusion about the whole shebang.

                        Furthermore, can I point out that deliberately undertaken, analytical tasting is not simple. When I was at uni Res School, we were talking to some third years who were doing their sensory analysis subject for Wine Science. They had spent all day tasting, and these blokes were absolutely fatigued; both in terms of their palates, and just physically spent.

                        I dont understand; one minute people who advocate cupping are elitist snobs, and now we want to redefine the term to apply it to all coffee tasting?!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                          Id like to point out I just "Taste" Im happy with the name and happy with the process.

                          Chris

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                            Originally posted by 3324253B2E2F24707370410 link=1251482092/12#12 date=1251536986
                            Id like to point out I just "Taste" Im happy with the name and happy with the process.  

                            Chris
                            Something in that I reckon Chris....I presume that if you like the taste, you then consume?

                            I think its too easy to get caught up in the process and ritual to the detriment of the outcome. Were here to enjoy the coffee!

                            Nothing wrong with learning how to cup traditionally and enjoying the ritual but in my case, I often enjoy #1 cup of the day the most. Its usually the one where I say "The good barista must be on this morning"!

                            Ultimately, its all about balance...in so many ways

                            2mcm

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: Cupping for Milk based beverages

                              I think I understand where Luca is coming from. People can taste any coffee and discern certain flavours but, unless they are following specific procedures, they cannot say that they are cupping. Different people can prepare drinks using the same beans, but each drink will taste different depending on how those beans were roasted and how the drink was prepared. Cupping follows specific procedures in an effort to eliminate those variables.

                              I hope Ive explained it

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