Coffee Cupping for Harvard Students

What does the average Harvard student think about during mid-November? Exams, term papers, grades, beer……? From the looks of the school paper, it is occupying and protesting. Yet, in the midst of the protests, some students took time to learn about …. coffee cupping! Yes, an article in the Harvard Crimson described a recent coffee cupping demo that took place on campus.

Apparently the demonstrator, one of the local coffee shop managers named Jaime Vanschyndel, did a bang-up job, because the reporters wrote, “It doesn’t take much coffee savvy to grasp the process.” Reading on, while the process may make sense, the art of describing coffee accurately based on smell and taste is an art that takes something special to master. Basically the process involves placing 8 grams of each coffee in a its cup, pouring 5 ounces of just-boiled water over each, and then letting them steep for 4 minutes. A crest, a thin layer of grounds, then forms on the top, which is carefully broken with the back of a spoon, allowing the aroma to be smelled. The coffees then need to cool to room temperature before tasting, as that is the best temperature for catching the nuances and defects.

The students were guided by the demonstrator and started to pick up on the differences in the aromas and tastes, and even the sweetness, body, mid-tone and acidity. They were impressed that Vanschyndel was able to detect - following a first whiff - which coffees were single origins and which were blends. He also pointed out the benefits of direct trade coffee, by which relationships with the grower are stressed. The student writers’ final comment was revealing of their level of coffee connoisseur-ship, as they state that their lack of caring about origins of beans etc. “may be less a case of apathy then of coffee illiteracy. After all, when you’re drinking coffee as an excuse for frothy milk and flavored syrups, you don’t often look for a coffee bean that tastes like citrus or jolly rancher.” Jolly rancher? That would be fruity, chocolaty, citrusy.

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