How My First Coffee Cupping Experience Humbled Me

With my two barista buddies and coffee provided by Guddina and Moustache, my first coffee cupping experience was a success.
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✍ Written by: Garrett Oden
📅 Published: July 10, 2023

I had seen pictures, watched videos, and heard stories, but I hadn’t ever experienced a coffee cupping myself – until last Thursday.

It wasn’t super fancy or organized, but chill and simple. With my two barista buddies and coffee provided by Guddina and Moustache, my first coffee-cupping experience was successful.

coffee cupping

Although amazingly fun, it was also somewhat difficult.

My palette is not experienced with discerning flavors and tastes that subtle. Despite being a specialty coffee enthusiast for about a year now, picking out particular flavors is difficult.

I could narrow coffees down to types of flavors, but I could hardly get more specific than “earthy,” “fruity,” or “spicy.” However, there was one point when I noticed the flavor “leaves,” and Trenton tasted “pine.” I considered that a small victory.

Coffee Cupping Experience

Let’s look at the specific coffees and what notes I took. Take my opinions about these types of things with a grain of salt (for now).

1. Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Borena Zone- Alana’s Coffee Roasting Co (Moustache Free-Sample)

I’ve never been disappointed in a Yirgacheffe coffee. This one was no exception.

My Notes: Strawberries, fruity and green apples

Roaster’s Notes: Fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and sweet floral aromatics

2. Ethiopia Ardi Natural Sidamo – Boston Stoker (Guddina Subscription)

My 2nd place choice goes to this beautiful Ardi. Although it was nearly two weeks since roast when we cupped it, these beans were still bursting with flavor and yums.

My Notes: Nutty, old

Roaster’s Notes: Strawberry, peanut butter and chocolate

3. Malawi Mzuzu – Deeper Roots (Guddina Subscription)

According to my ignorant palette, this coffee was also very flavorful and full of life but came slightly behind the Ardi.

My Notes: Little hints of fruit, nutty

Roaster’s Notes: Pu-erh Tea, Medjool Date, and Lemoncello (Does anyone know what any of this is??)

4. El Salvador Finca El Talapo – Tanager Coffee (Guddina Subscription)

This coffee was solid but didn’t quite have the complexities of the three coffees before it.

My Notes: Leaves, chocolate

Roaster’s Notes: Tangerine, cane sugar, cola sweetness, and caramel

5. Mexico Finca Santa Teresa – One Line Coffee (Guddina Subscription)

We all agreed that this coffee from Mexico was the runt of the group. I’m not picking at One Line Coffee, I hear they have great beans, but this one just didn’t impress. It was also the first one I tasted, which should explain what I wrote in my notes…

My Notes: I suck at this, Earth yo

Roaster’s Notes: A dark roast coffee with bittersweet chocolate and cane sugar flavors

I’m No Cupping Pro

coffee cuppingThere you have it. I am obviously really, really bad at this whole cupping business. I think part of my failure is due to my previous lack of burning desire to be able to discern specific and individual flavors skillfully. That was before. Now, I am resolved to become a craftsman in naming flavor notes and discussing aromas. I will grow and learn to approach cupping confidently.

I am embarrassed about my poorly-aware tongue. But I won’t lie to you and pretend to be an expert. We are all growing, all learning, all discovering. And sometimes, we have to be humbled before we can progress.

Happy brewing!

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Garrett Oden

Garrett Oden

Coffee Industry Writer

Welcome, fellow coffee lover!

The entire purpose of this coffee blog is to empower you to explore the wonderful world of coffee. There’s much to learn and experience, so get to reading!

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  1. Keith Ikeda-Barry

    Tasting rewards as much attention as you are willing to give it. Making notes and reading up on classic flavour profiles will “prime” your taste buds (and awareness/interpretative skills) for the next encounter. Sommeliers and wine enthusiasts go through the same process.

    Limoncello is a classic Italian dessert liqueur made from lemon flesh, lemon zest, sugar and clear alcohol. Very easy to make at home (where you can control the sugar content) as long as you make sure no white pith gets in (bitter). Lots of recipes out there on the Google. I prefer to make it with limes.

  2. zbritalia

    Medjool dates are big, juicy…..dates (a fruit). Limonchello is a super sweet Italian liqueur made – you guessed it – from lemons. It’s especially popular in regions south of Rome. No idea about the tea – um, I drink coffee 😉

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It’s refreshing to read about other’s ‘starting’ experiences. After a considerable hiatus, I’ve been working my way into specialty coffee – first experience at the Amsterdam Coffee Festival was shocking. I wondered if I needed to get new clothes, buy some dark-rimmed glasses, and grow a beard in order to get ‘in’. But like you, I’m just going to embrace my own way.

    Happy experimenting!