Get to Know Your Coffees

August 27, 2012

Coffee consumption is on the rise. Take advantage of the continued growth of this complex beverage by offering in store cupping.

Coffee consumption is on the rise, and consumers are becoming even savvier about the types of coffee they enjoy. According to the National Coffee Association, in their 2012 Coffee Drinking Trends, coffee consumption has increased seven percent over 2011; which now puts coffee at a 10-point advantage over soft drinks. This combined with the increasing awareness of where our food is coming from, knowing about the different heirloom varieties and gourmet foods, and in coffee’s case fair trade, rainforest certified and more, the perfect marketing opportunity exists to educate customers about the many types of coffee and how to brew the perfect cup.

Set up a tasting corner or bar in store to demonstrate cupping, highlighting the subtle flavor differences and characteristics between various coffees.  Coffee like wine varies from growing region to the way the beans were roasted – bringing customers a similar appreciation for their morning joe as they do their evening glass of wine, is a perfect way to highlight this growing beverage.

One of the tools of the trade is to cup (cupping) a variety of coffees to determine flavor, aroma, and taste. Cupping, is a methodical, standardized way to brew and taste coffees to compare them to others, and for educating consumers, it's a great way to develop a vocabulary of coffee tasting terms that will propel future choices personalized to their individual preferences.

While brewing for cupping has many variations, here is a basic preparation guideline that simply uses water and ground beans and no machine – perfect for in store demos:

  • Roast the coffee, have it roasted locally or buy roasted beans. If comparing three coffee brands, choose those that are roasted in the same style.
  • Allow it to rest two days, if freshly roasted.
  • Grind the beans coarsely.
  • Measure as you usually would for one cup and pour under-boiling water (195-205°F) on the grounds, and infuse from three to four minutes.
  • Smell the coffee and have customers take note of anything to look for while tasting.
  • Break the crust that naturally forms while coffee is steeping and stir gently so that the grounds sink to the bottom. (Scoop off any of those that rest on top and discard.)
  • Now, cup. This is done by filling a tablespoon with coffee. Do not drink it, but literally slurp it by drawing the coffee into your mouth and allowing it to hit the roof of your mouth, coat your tongue, then fall into the back of your mouth, without swallowing. Doing this not only stimulates the sense of taste but those of feel/touch and your sense of smell.
  • Using a large bowl, spit out this coffee; do not swallow. If customers are going to taste six to 12 coffees at a time they might not want to drink it, similar to wine tastings.
  • In between tastings you offer some cold water to refresh taste buds.

Now, what should the supermarket barista discuss with customers? Is the coffee sharp or dull, lively or flat, heavy or thin in body, pungent or mild in fragrance, does it have a full-mouth flavor and/or a pleasant aftertaste? Send customers on their way with a score card and a bag of the coffee they enjoyed the most.