The First Sip
How sensational when the distinct aroma of a fresh brewed pot of coffee that captures our attention is both wondrous and inescapable. As the water presses through the grinds, coffee's delightfully special aroma hangs heavy in the air. Coffee conjures a unique and pleasing perfume, as the steam swirling about the pot holds tight to the woody, earthy, nutty or floral notes. The way the smell of freshly brewed coffee lingers in the air, filling the room with anticipation, creates feelings of happiness, awakens the senses and elicits fond memories is unmistakably unlike any other smell. And the taste doesn’t disappoint either!
My first memory of brewing and drinking coffee was during a summer vacation with my grandparents. I was nine. Each night just before bedtime, my grandfather would brew a pot of coffee. Next morning, at breakfast, he drank it black, and cold from the pot. He continuously drank the cold coffee, throughout the day, until the pot was empty. Out of curiosity for the taste and wondering about my grandfather’s nocturnal brewing ritual, I asked for a sip. My face pinched, and my taste buds picked up bitter lemon, dry and lifeless and something tart, like a Granny Smith apple. It was awful, just awful, and I said so. My grandfather laughed, sipping out of his cup like it was a fine wine. I decided to believe the “it will stunt your growth” advice and leave coffee drinking to the adults.
My next foray into coffee was years later, as a junior high school teenager. Limited to the arcades and roller rinks, “after-hours,” late night hangouts at the 24 hour donut shop, with my friends was the “thing” to do. Without question, coffee and donuts are a magical pairing. I didn’t want coffee on that first visit with my friends, but my buddy beat me to it and ordered a powdered chocolate cream filled donut, and a cup of coffee, with cream. When the combo arrived at the counter, my friend went straight for his coffee. I waited for the pinched face. He smiled and sighed, eyes bright as if he were greeting a long lost friend! Hesitantly, following suit, I took a sip. Fireworks! The thing I remember the most about that first sip of hot coffee, was the explosion of a delicious, smooth nutty flavor. How could this be? There was no bitterness, or acidic bite. The aroma was mouthwatering, the weight of the coffee in my mouth was buttery and heavy. If there was a word to describe the acidity I would have said, “Bright!” Fun fact: I’ve been drinking coffee ever since.
We mustn't take coffee for granted and assume every coffee bean and every roast produces the same result. Because much like understanding and enjoying the nose and body of your favorite wine, or the mouthfeel of a delectable square of melting chocolate, or the flavor power of a creamy and sweet, or dry and complex cheese, coffee too has many flavor profiles to consider.
If you struggle to understand the delightful flavors coffee can offer your palette, because you're stuck believing all coffee is bitter and acidic, then perhaps you don’t know exactly what to look for in a delicious coffee. It’s time to branch out! Yes, the acidic notes in coffee are inevitable. The acidity determines your coffee’s overall character, and is an important part of the coffee bean roasting process. The bitterness you experience, well, let’s spin that sensation into a positive reaction: aftertaste. Just like a Chardonnay might finish with grapefruit or crisp apple, coffee can finish spicy, smoky or woody.
Using a combination of your senses, sight, taste and smell will assist you in determining which coffees are standouts and which coffees are off the table. The ratio of ground coffee to hot water determines the thickness and color. Look closely at the consistency. Is it thick and muddy, too oily? Is the color light brown or very dark brown? These two visual factors are just as important as using your mouth and nose when finding your perfect coffee. Your nose is the gateway to aroma. Bring your nose to the cup. Stop and smell and analyze the distinct notes emanating from your cup. Are they fruity and floral, caramel and vanilla, woody or astringent? Your nose determines much of what things taste like.
When food or liquid enters the mouth, volatiles - air combined with flavor - enters through a small opening in the nasal passages. These volatiles travel through a pathway from the mouth to the brain. Signals in the brain receive and store the volatile molecules, and determine if they are coming from the mouth or the nose. These molecules are programmed as flavors. So whether you’re chewing or breathing your brain stores the “flavors” you’re experiencing. This is why we experience flavor memories. Food and drink allow us to recall moments in our past, like the cold coffee summer with my grandfather! When tasting coffee, pay attention to the bitterness, sweetness, acidity and/or umami (savory) produced from the brewing. Do you prefer one over the other or do you like a blend of several tastes? Once you’ve come to your senses, you’ll not only find your favorite type of coffee, you’ll understand how the complexities of a freshly brewed cup of coffee impart a pleasing sensorial experience!
Let’s dive deep into the whole beautiful spectrum of coffee flavors, from the deepest of dark roasts to the splendidly light and blond breakfast blends. For starters, the best way to introduce yourself to the world of coffee flavors is to have yourself take part in a cupping. This experience allows you to taste small samples of many different coffee roasts to find one that is the most palate pleasing!
When you're ready to experience a cupping, simply choose 2 or more types of coffee beans (the more beans, the more fun) a cup and a spoon for each type of coffee, a kettle to boil water and you're ready to start some brewing fun! Grind about 25 grams or 1 level tablespoon of each of the coffee beans to a medium-coarse grind. Place the grinds in separate cups. Bring the water in the kettle to 208°F / 97°C. Pour the hot water into the cups. After 4 minutes stir each cup. After 15 minutes skim the grinds from the surface. Use the spoons to slurp the coffee and then swish the coffee inside your mouth, so that your senses can get the full effect of each coffee roast. Take some notes on the flavor profiles, and what you like or don’t like about each coffee. Then, all that’s left to do is to choose a favorite bean or two. Are you ready to start your coffee cupping?
Why not enjoy a Leena Bean cupping by ordering the Four Blend Starter Kit. This exquisite coffee kit includes Leena Bean’s top coffees and will help get you familiarized with some of the wonderfully exciting and exotic flavors of coffee.
- OG Leena Bean: An exquisite blend of coffee beans using Africa’s distinctive floral characteristics, Indonesia’s syrupy body and dense flavors, plus Central and South America’s perfectly balanced beans, not too acidic and not too bitter.
- Balinese Dream: If the aromas of brown sugar, molasses and dark chocolate seem enticing, just wait until you experience this roast in your cup!
- Brazilian Revival: This soft, nutty medium roast blends bittersweet chocolate and floral notes. Brazilian coffee is a fantastic base for making flavored coffee drinks and perfect espresso.
- Caramel Beaches: “Waves of natural caramel flavor waft from our smooth, medium roasted beans.” Switch up your morning routine and find yourself transported to your own momentary tropical getaway, sipping this popular roast, and feeling the blissful ocean breezes under some palm trees. Yes, please!
We agree with famed American writer, Laurell K. Hamilton who says, “I’ve never met coffee that wasn’t wonderful. It was just a matter of how wonderful it was.” For centuries the wonderful coffee bean has been cultivated and roasted on many continents and tropical islands for it’s myriad of unique complexities. Globally, roasters have found the perfect locations to grow beans which yield the perfect combinations of aroma, acidity, body, flavor and aftertaste. Leena Bean Coffee understands the importance of providing quality artisan brand coffees. Lena Bean Coffee beans are always ethically sourced and traded to ensure the health and safety, fair wages and international labor rights for all coffee workers, laborers, growers and farmers. Understand the unique and intricate elements of coffee and you’ll understand that coffee welcomes your senses like the welcoming of your oldest and dearest friend. It’s time for a cup of Leena Bean Coffee! Happy sipping!