The Art of Cupping
Most coffee drinkers have rituals. For some, it’s grab a cup to go. For others, it’s heat the water, grind the beans, measure the grounds, pour the water, wait and watch, and then, at last, delight in the flavor of freshly made coffee. But even the most obsessive coffee fanatic has nothing on a master taster who “cups” coffee day in and day out.
As Mark Woods, New England Coffee’s Director of Green Coffee Purchase and Quality Assurance would say, “Cupping is a very hand-on, sensory aspect of our day-to-day job. It’s very important.”
At New England Coffee, three people – Second generation family member, Steve Kaloyanides Sr., Mark Woods, and Manager of Green Coffee Purchasing and Quality Assurance, Bruna Iljazi – do all the cupping, and when they sit down at the round oak table that spins like a lazy Susan, they practice a craft that has, over time, acquired its own choreography and language.
“The art of cupping has really not changed in the last one hundred years or so,” says Mark. “It basically is the function of putting ground coffee in a cup with hot water and smelling and tasting the coffee. There is no filter. There is no other process involved. There is no cream and sugar. It’s really you and the coffee, one-to-one. We take the bean, we roast it, we grind it, we measure it, we put it on the table, we have six cups per sample. We add hot water to it, we smell, we break the crust on the surface, and we go through the process of tasting and spitting it out.” Through steady practice, Steve Sr. and Mark and Bruna have learned to evaluate every nuance of a coffee, including its aroma, body, and texture, sweetness, and acidity, flavor and aftertaste. For aroma alone, they can detect notes of caramel, malt, chocolate, flowers, fruits, various nuts and spices, and more.
Cupping occurs in silence, no one speaks until everyone is finished. And then they compare notes about the samples on the table.
“The cupping process at New England Coffee is a time-honored, time-tested tradition,” says Mark. “We’re encouraged to be critical and to speak our minds. That’s the best way to ensure that we only accept the best-tasting, highest-quality product.”
In the end, the three tasters determine whether each coffee sample is good enough for the company- and, in turn, worthy of serving to our extraordinary customers.