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The Art of Tasting Coffee

Here is an introduction to cupping, or the art of tasting coffee. Cupping is the sensory evaluation of the quality and characteristics of coffee. We use our nose to evaluate the fragrances and aromas and our taste buds to perceive flavours. As opposed to tasting where coffee is brewed and sipped in a conventional way, cupping requires the coffee grinds and water to be in direct contact to accentuate the aroma and flavour intensity.

Check out Van Houtte expert cuppers at work with coffee farmers at the Honduran Coffee Institute tasting lab in San Luis Planes, Honduras!


To organize a cupping session at home, here is what you'll need:


First, pour 8 grams (1 tablespoon) of ground coffee into a 6 oz bowl or cup. Smell its fragrance. What does it remind you of?

Bring water to boil and let it sit for 15 to 20 seconds to bring the temperature down. Make sure to remove it from the heat as soon as it starts to boil. Pour enough hot water to wet the coffee grinds, then fill the bowl to the rim. Quickly inhale the steam that rises from the cup and think about what you smell. Write down what you experience. At this point, you'll also notice that a crust begins to form at the surface of the cup.

Break the crust with a spoon to ensure all floating coffee grinds become saturated, then steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Skim off the surface from any grinds that have not sunk. Let the coffee cool down for a minute or two.

Fill your soup spoon with coffee. Slurp in the coffee – this will allow it to cool as it enters your mouth. Spray the coffee all over your taste buds and let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds to “feel” the coffee. Then, swallow or spit it out. After each spoonful, record your impressions on the tasting form. Check out the tongue illustration to locate your taste buds. Where do you taste the coffee? What flavours do you recognize?

We encourage you to try cupping with different coffees. Try a maximum of three or four samples per session, and always taste coffee from the lightest to the darkest roast.

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Don’t hesitate to share your cupping experience on our Facebook page .

Have fun!