Have you ever woken up early on a cold winter morning while the sunbeams gently peak above the trees, and in those first moments of the new day step outside and smell the frigid air? It smells of newness with hints of burnt firewood, peppermint (but not overwhelmingly of peppermint), and pain, or what the subtle stinging on the tip of the nose smells like. The smell has a distinct taste too. Doesn’t it? I just can’t put my finger on it, but it’s vivid. And when you stop to take it all in, it’s as though the Earth’s energy is within grasp and ripe for the taking.
When I think of, or sense, that smell, it reminds me of the euphoric feeling I get at the end of a thrill ride. The wave of relief that flushes through me as though waves of dopamine are crashing through my body like the surf on a Californian beach. The energy is regenerative, awakening, and intoxicating.
“New beginnings” and “Energy” are our adopted the themes in 2021. To that end, this blog will reflect something new we’re doing for our followers starting this month. And we couldn’t think of a better way to convey our themes by introducing you to the Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel. Below is an abbreviated version of how to use the Wheel. For a more thorough study of the Wheel, please click on the hyperlink and it will take you directly to the source.
- Take some time to familiarize you with the wheel. It’s comprehensive and probably has some words you didn’t think related to coffee…consider “pipe tobacco.”
- Taste and Think about Coffee:
- Cleanse your palate with water before you taste the coffee. Remember to smell the coffee in its various stages: whole bean, ground, and brewed. Think about the terms you observed in the wheel. Do any of the flavors and smells you read about pop into mind while you’re enjoying your coffee? Commit those sensations to memory. Maybe catalog the coffees that resonate with your sense of taste and smell for further study.
- Using the Wheel:
- Begin in the center of the wheel and work outwards. The center identifies generic smells and tastes as a way to categorize the more complex outer layer smells into big picture categories. Once you have mastered the generic smells and tastes, work outwards to get more granular. Consider an Ethiopian blend. I enjoy Ethiopian coffees because of their typical fruity tastes. When I drink a specialty coffee (single origin) from Ethiopia, I spend the first 5-10 minutes trying to identify the specific fruits I taste. The most recent single origin coffee I tasted had hints of peach and apricot. At first, I thought it had hints of apple, but as I spent more time with the brew, the peach and apricot flavors began to emerge nicely.
- It does take time to develop a knack for identifying the subtle flavor differences embedded in each coffee region’s terroir, especially if you’re not use to thinking about coffee this way and, particularly, if you add flavors, sugar, cream, etc. In order to get the most out of this experience, it’s best to taste coffee black. Don’t despair if you’re just getting started. It takes a bit of time, focus, and energy to develop competency in tasting, but it’s 100% worth it when you do.
- Read the Vocabulary:
- Like any complex topic and/or industry, coffee has a specific language attributed to it as a way to converse with coffee aficionados and the like. You don’t have to be a master taster to get an understanding of the vocabulary, however. Just taste, repeat, taste, repeat, etc. Once you feel comfortable, go into your local coffee house and speak to the barista about coffee. They’ll love to engage with you and more importantly, you’ll probably get some awesome coffee recommendations you probably never considered.
- Study Colors:
- The color palate of the wheel is deliberate. Those who created the wheel were shrewd in assigning colors because of the way human beings use color as a medium to identify smells and tastes that are not attainable through our sense of sight. Identifying a smell and or/taste with the color red or orange normally conjures up images of ripe sugary fruits, like apples, oranges, grapes, etc.
- Practice, Practice, Practice:
- If you want to get good at identifying smells and tastes, we recommend you practice daily. Considered being mindful with your coffee. Think of it as an end in itself rather than a means (i.e., caffeine needed for fuel!). Coffee is both an art and a science and thus has a complexity worth studying. The smells and tastes you experience are indicative of the coffee’s growth, cultivation, and consumption all backed by local, regional, and national efforts to produce this wonderful plant. Think about the conditions where the beans were grown, think about the type of earth it was grown in, think about the roasting process that gets the bean to the cusp of consumption. Everything about the bean’s life cycle has a story to tell and a good chunk of that story reveals itself in your sense of smell and taste.
For those really interested in honing their ability to identify the subtle flavors in each sip of coffee, The Coffee Tasters Flavor Wheel can be a tremendous resource. Like a fine wine, the earth (or terroir) plays an important role in the way we experience coffee. What’s really interesting is how your taste buds and sense of smell work in conjunction to deliver a unique experience to your palate.
If you don’t already use the flavor wheel, consider it when sampling your next cup of coffee. We promise you it will be enlightening and hopefully make you think about the complexity in each cup of coffee. As the flavor wheel relates to our two themes – “New Beginnings and Energy” – we hope that this short introduction to the wheel enriches your sense of smell and taste and brings renewed energy to your daily experience with coffee!
We think the scent of coffee, like the smell of a cold winter morning, can bring a euphoric sense of calm as the dopamine rushes through us with each daily sip.
Just Pour was formed with the intention to deliver single serve coffee to our customers while paying homage to the environment with our sustainable filters and packaging. For more information about Just Pour you can visit us at www.justpourcoffee.com, or check out our Facebook and Instagram Pages.
We hope to see you become a member of Just Pour.
Jason Hebert, Co-Founder of Just Pour