The Cupping Table: A Barista’s Personal Journey of Discovery
I have been working with coffee in some fashion since 2008 and its only been in the last two years, working with the Artisan team, that I have discovered the world of Speciality Coffee in all its glory. It may be a redundant statement to say that I love everything about coffee (I am, after all, writing this blog post). But it’s true; I love its history, its complexity, its science, its ability to bring people together, the various methods that can be used to create the perfect cup and most of all, I love the wide variety of flavours that can be found, depending on origin, processing, roasting and method of extraction.
The most exciting personal discovery I’ve had in recent years, is experiencing the exquisite taste and complexity of flavour found in single origin, speciality coffee. Within my first two weeks of working as a Barista at Artisan, I found myself around a cupping table for the first time. Apart from being exciting, at first glimpse the cupping table appeared rather intimidating. There were eight sets of coffee, with two cups each. The bags of the different coffees were set out on the table, (which was very helpful) and we were told about the coffee cherry and how different origins and processing methods would effect the flavour of the coffee we were about to taste. If I’m honest, I don’t remember everything that was discussed in that session, but I do remember being taught how to break and remove the “crust”, (the chaff that raises to the top of the cup) I remember needing to get my nose really close to the cup to smell the aroma of the coffees and I remember being told to slurp, (loudly). Once I got my first taste of these coffees, everything changed.
My pallet was suddenly awakened to flavours I never knew existed in coffee. There was everything from the rich, smooth, nutty notes of Brazilian, to bright, zesty, citrus notes of Kenyan and the jammy, sweet, berry notes of Natural Ethiopian. Before that moment, I thought I knew a lot about coffee; however after leaving the cupping table that day, I came to the sudden realisation that I knew absolutely nothing. The world of coffee and become vast and foreign to me and I had to learn everything I could about it.
Since that day, through the training offered to me at the Artisan Coffee School, I have been lucky enough to have access to some of the world’s finest coffee. I have had the opportunity to be around numerous cupping tables. I have tasted coffees from nearly every origin, variety and processing method from a wide range of Speciality Roasters. I have been able to determine what my personal preferences are, and to appreciate the workmanship that goes in to every cup.
As a Barista, I want to do justice to the product I am lucky enough to work with and I want to give every customer a glimpse into what is possible with coffee. I pride myself on brewing and thoroughly enjoy hearing feedback when a customer tastes one of our single origin filter coffees for the first time and finds the flavours surprising. I love nothing more than to share my knowledge, which hopefully ignites a curiosity in others, that competes with my own.
In two years, my excitement for coffee has grown; the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I encourage anyone who loves coffee yet has never had the pleasure of experiencing a cupping table, to book themselves on Artisan’s Signature Masterclass, Home Brew Masterclass or any of the SCA, (Speciality Coffee Association) courses offered at the Artisan Coffee School. I guarantee you will not be disappointed in the variety of coffee you get to taste under the instruction of some of the best trainers I’ve had the pleasure of learning from. Let this be the beginning to opening your pallet, to what was for me, life changing.
Kathryn J. Thompson
Senior Barista, Artisan