A Coffee Appreciation Starter Manual
Coffee is had for a number of reasons - some drink it purely for the caffeine boost, some pair coffee with their favourite baked good, and some drink coffee to be able to camp out at their neighbourhood cafe for the free Wifi. What most people don’t realise is that the world of coffee appreciation, much like Wine, is extensive and intricate. Every cup has a unique taste based on where the bean comes from, how the beans are roasted and ultimately, how the cup is brewed. To better understand and appreciate a cup of coffee, connoisseurs assess the drink based on very particular aspects. To begin, lets pore over the ones that form the bedrock of coffee appreciation and are, some might say, the easiest to grasp: aroma, acidity, body and flavour.
Aroma. Circling back to the similarities between coffee and wine, smell is an integral part of coffee appreciation. This boils down to rudimentary biology - our sense of smell is closely linked to that of our taste. Before going in for a taste of your coffee, take a moment to put your nose to the cup, take a big whiff and let the aroma take over. Depending on the coffee, some of the familiar aromas you may detect are caramel, smokiness, fruit, nuts and various spices. Don’t be disappointed if you aren’t immediately able to discern the underlying aroma in a coffee since most of them may be subtle. The bottom line is, getting a good whiff of your coffee will undeniably enhance its flavour when you drink it.
Acidity. Acidity is the dry, bright and sparkling sensation that gives coffee its unique taste. This is a quality commonly associated with coffee beans grown at higher elevations, thus considered higher quality. In coffee, there are many varieties of acid. This can range from citric acid found in Arabica to Malic acid that provides coffee with a fruit-like flavour. Many coffee drinkers associate highly acidic coffee to be the cause for their sour stomach. However, the cause for this is not all types of acid, but rather a singular type known as Quinic acid - an acid that thrives in stale coffee.
Body. Also known as mouthfeel, a coffee’s body is a measure of its texture. When you drink your next cup of coffee, feel how rich or intense the coffee is as it settles between your tongue and palate. Just like aroma, there are no set terms when describing a coffee’s body. Rather, connoisseurs will use a wide vocabulary to try and accurately capture the mouthfeel. Common descriptors used include “heavy-bodied” and “light-bodied”. A heavy-bodied coffee will feel thicker and more viscous, while a light-bodied coffee will feel thinner. Top tip - an easy way to understand the difference between a heavy body and a light body is the feel of whole milk against skim milk as it settles in your mouth.
Flavour. The flavour of coffee is, simply, the taste of your coffee. Does it have a hint of honey? Do you taste vanilla? Perhaps it tastes like a mix of nuts and caramel? The descriptors of coffee flavour are, just like when describing coffee body, as wide ranging as one’s vocabulary. Sweetness and Bitterness, among the other factors mentioned such as Acidity and Body, are common go-to descriptions when it comes to coffee’s flavour.