On slurping

I’ve been to a few cupping sessions, all of them led by or at least involving Allie Caran, who heads the coffee program at Woodberry Kitchen here in Baltimore and is set to open her own shop, Artifact Coffee, next month. She’s great. In particular, she has her own unique slurping style. Check it out!

Ok, fine, that’s not really how she slurps. Sprudge (Llewellyn Sinclair most likely?) is responsible for the hilarious re-edit. But my intention here is not to embarrass Allie so much as to bring up slurping, its role in cupping coffee, and, more broadly, how we taste coffee at home.

Allow me to quote a passage from a cupping guide by Tom Owens:

“When the cup has cooled enough not to burn the heck out of the judge’s tongue, the evaluation of the cup flavors begins. To do this, the judge carefully lowers the spoon into the top of the cup, careful not to agitate the grinds at the bottom, lifts a spoonful up, and sucks it loudly (and grotesquely) into their mouth. The reason to inhale the coffee as such is to spray it, to aerate it, as much as possible so it can be sensed not only on the tongue, but in the nasal cavities. Ideally, retro-nasal breathing helps to pull the coffee into the nasal passages even more. The coffee falls down in the palate and can then be circulated around the tongue, and then expectorated (with great flourish, not dribbling down the chin) because, heck, you might be tasting another 199 cups that day!”

Clearly some of this advice doesn’t apply to amateurs like us who can afford to drink *and* taste, forgoing the spittoon. Still, the emphasis on smelling as well as tasting is right on, and I like the “circulated around the tongue” bit as well. Personally, I don’t slurp much in private—at least not on purpose—but I do often “chew” my coffee to better gauge acidity, sweetness, flavor, body, finish, and the like.

Do you routinely do anything special to focus on tasting what’s in your cup?

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