This week Amelia, Adam and I visited Counter Culture Coffee‘s DC Training Center. As coffee enthusiasts, we jump at any chance to learn about the coffees, especially those we sell at The Wine Source. Counter Culture supplies us with a variety of incredible coffees, and our rep Alex invited us down to do a coffee tasting session, also known as “cupping”.

The Cupping Setup

The Cupping Setup- Those are coffee trees behind the table! Very cool.

It turns out coffee cupping is a pretty intense process! Alex lined up 6 different coffees along a table. We were given “cupping forms”, which included 7 different characteristics that we were to look for in each coffee. Step one was taking deep whiffs of each freshly measured and ground coffee, noting the fragrances. In the second step, hot water was poured over the grounds, and again we took deep smells of each, this time looking for aromas. The grounds formed something of a crust at the top of the cup, and in the third step, called the “break”, we broke the crust with a special spoon and slightly stirred just the top of the coffee, producing a concentrated burst of aroma. This concluded the smelling portion of the cupping, and we were all amazed at how different and unusual each coffee smelled. From notes of peanut and chocolate in the Finca Nueva Armenia from Guatemala to fresh lime in the Ndoroini from Kenya.

Then we tasted. For each coffee, we shallowly dipped a spoon in the coffee and then quickly slurped it up. Alex told us the slurping helps to aspirate the coffee and to cover the tongue more completely. In this portion we looked for 4 different characteristics: brightness, flavor, body and aftertaste. Again, after tasting back and forth through all of the coffees, we were amazed at the range of flavors. Some coffees, like the Baroida from Papua New Guinea, had interesting umami notes akin to soy sauce. The Ehtiopian Tegegu Ocholo was very tea like with sweet notes of raspberry and blueberry.

Overall, we came away from the training with an understanding of just how complex coffee is; from harvesting to roasting to tasting.  Alex did a great job leading us through the tasting, and we learned a lot about the history and process of coffee and coffee making.

Counter Culture's Cascara- coffee cherry infused tea!

Counter Culture’s Cascara- coffee cherry infused tea! Watch out, 3x the caffeine!

We were quite excited by a product new to all of us- Counter Culture’s Cascara Tea. Consisting of the remainder of the coffee cherry (the pulp and skin) after the hull is removed for drying and roasting (what you see when you open us a bag of coffee). The cherry pulps were steeped for about 20 minutes in hot water, and what resulted was a sweet, fruity, tea-like brew. Sort of what you’d expect coffee-tea to taste like, but maybe even better. We had to stop ourselves from slurping it down (even when it cooled off it was delicious!) because it has 3x the caffeine of coffee! Yikes! Be sure to look for Cascara at The Wine Source closer to the holidays, definitely a great gift.

If you’re thirsty for more coffee info, conveniently enough, Counter Culture offers cuppings every Friday at 10 am just down the street at Artifact Coffee. You can click here to learn more about Counter Culture and their other educational opportunities.