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How Cuppers Evaluate Coffee: Elements of the Evaluation Process

In the coffee industry, cupping (tasting and evaluating coffee) plays a crucial role as a standard for assessing the quality and characteristics of coffee. This process, a combination of art and science, is performed by highly skilled experts known as cuppers. Their skills determine not just the fate of coffee batches but also shape trends and preferences in the global coffee industry. This article will delve deep into the cupping process, especially through the lens of the coffee evaluation principles of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), unveiling a world of complex and highly specialized coffee evaluation.


The Role of Cuppers

The role of a cupper is not only complex but also extremely important. These are individuals with a keen sense of perception, capable of discerning subtle differences in taste, aroma, texture, and acidity among coffee samples. Their evaluations inform decisions from purchasing green coffee to refining roasting profiles and beyond.

Cupping cup của các Cupper
Cupping cups of the Cuppers

A cupper's judgment can elevate the status of a coffee, affecting its market value and consumer perception. Therefore, becoming a professional cupper requires a combination of experience, rigorous training, and a natural sensitivity to the complex flavors of coffee.


Cupping Process

The cupping process, standardized by the SCA, provides a framework for coffee evaluation. This process ensures consistency and fairness in cupping sessions, allowing cuppers to compare coffee from all over the world on a level playing field.

Học viên HQJ thực hiện Quy trình Cupping
HQJ students carry out the Cupping process

The process includes several steps: from grinding the coffee to evaluating its aroma, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, uniformity, balance, and overall impression. This systematic method ensures that each coffee sample is fairly evaluated, highlighting its strengths and identifying any flaws.


Cupping Process: Objective or Subjective?

While the SCA's cupping process aims to be objective, the subjectivity of taste cannot be completely eliminated. Cuppers bring their personal experiences, preferences, and cultural backgrounds to the cupping table.


This diversity of perspectives is both a challenge and a strength of the cupping process, introducing a rich tapestry of tastes and preferences reflecting the global coffee community. However, through rigorous training and calibration, cuppers strive to achieve consensus on quality, ensuring their evaluations align with industry standards.


The Evolution of the Cupping Process

Recent studies, including the work of Dr. Jorge Berny and Dr. Mario Fernández-Alduenda, have explored the nuances of the cupping process, questioning and refining traditional practices.


Their work, focusing on the balance between analytical and subjective evaluation, aims to enhance the accuracy and relevance of cupping in the diverse context of today's coffee. These advancements reflect a broader trend in the coffee industry: a movement towards a more multidimensional understanding of quality, respecting the complexity of coffee and the diverse preferences of consumers.


The Influence of Sensory Science

Sensory science has revolutionized how we understand and conduct cupping. By distinguishing between analytical quality measurements and value judgments, sensory science provides tools to navigate the subjectivity of taste. This has led to the development of more sophisticated cupping forms and processes, capable of more accurately capturing the complex flavor profiles of coffee, ultimately enriching the cupping process with greater depth and objectivity.


The Future of the Cupping Process

As the coffee industry continues to evolve, so does the cupping process. With ongoing research and innovation, the future of cupping promises to bring even more refined tools and methods. These advancements aim not only to improve the accuracy and consistency of cupping but also to expand our understanding of what quality means across different cultures and markets. The goal is a more inclusive, fair, and multidimensional coffee evaluation, celebrating its diversity and complexity.


Conclusion

Cupping remains an indispensable process in the coffee industry, bridging the gap between the coffee bean and the coffee cup. The dedication and expertise of cuppers, along with the scientific development of the cupping process, continue to elevate the coffee experience for everyone. As we look forward, the journey of coffee cupping is one of discovery, innovation, and appreciation for the art and science behind every cup of coffee.


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