What is a Coffee Cupping?

Notes of sweet floral, melon and citrus.

This is how a coffee label reads.

Seems crazy, right? You may have encountered this on a menu or heard a barista describe a coffee in this insane way.

How does a coffee professional decide to label a coffee in that way?

The answer, a coffee cupping.

A cupping is another term you may have heard thrown around in a shop, but might not know what it is. Let me explain.

Coffee cupping is a methodical way of tasting coffee. It originated in the US during the early 1900’s as a means of determining if coffee was “good.” Since then, cupping has evolved into the industry standard for evaluating coffee based on things like;

  • Fragrance
  • Aroma
  • Flavor
  • Body
  • Acidity
  • and more.

All of this information culminates into a quantitative score up to 100. To be considered “speciality” grade coffee it must score at least 80.

Now the purpose of cuppings to coffee buyers is a means to decide if they want to buy a specific coffee. In the industry these can be extremely important decisions with thousands and thousands of dollars on the line. Needless to say, these cuppings are intense! For example, you are not allowed to wear strong perfumes because it could skew the data.

Of course not all cuppings have to be this intense. You can experience one yourself. Counter Culture Coffee, the roasting company we use exclusively, has training centers all over the country,

including one in Atlanta. You can attend a cupping any Friday at 10 a.m or as it’s called a “Tasting at Ten.” It is very casual and is a great way for coffee enthusiasts to learn a little bit more about what goes into their daily cup.

At the tasting, you will be asked to describe what you are smelling, tasting and feeling. But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a pro. Just relax and try to be in tune with your palate. There are no wrong answers.

It is a great experience that you probably won’t have just sitting around in a cafe. Try it out and see if you taste or smell the things listed on the coffee bag!

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Coffee cupping, or coffee tasting, is the practice of observing the tastes and aromas of brewed coffee. It is a professional practice but can be done informally by anyone or by professionals known as "Q Graders"

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