The sound of good coffee

So as I explained the make up and flavour profile of my espresso to the back of some empty chairs in a North Inner City lock-up I began to switch off from my presentation training and ponder the different ways that we describe flavours in coffee.

To me, the language of taste is a fascinating one in that it borrows so heavily from the other sensory linguistics. Have you ever considered how for instance we describe the taste of coffee as sharp, crisp, rounded or smooth yet these are tactile sensations.

Similarly we can describe them as bright or dull which is a visual description. How often have you talked of “notes” in coffee, an obvious auditory reference. Ever considered why a bright gaudy shirt is called a “loud” shirt, and in the context of coffee, could we describe a really pungent coffee as “Loud”??

A condition known as synaesthesia occurs where peoples’ senses become interlinked and they consequently begin to taste or smell words, see colours when they think of numbers and generally enjoy a multi sensory experience when only one sense is stimulated. An extreme case documented by the BBC saw a man taste earwax whenever he heard the name Derek.

This condition has been of massive interest to marketeers, psychologists, artists and various other professions for many years. I even recently met an architect who was considering building a structure based on how it would taste in his mind.

When I’m cupping or tasting espresso I like to be inventive with my descriptions, it adds an element of fun to the proceedings. A coffee I’m drinking at the moment can only be described as a “Smiler” and an espresso I had over the weekend seemed to have a “hole” in the taste. Similarly I always think of Yirgacheffe as being purple, and Daterra being yellow. If anyone has any similar experiences or opinions, I’m all ears.

p.s. The first time I ever cupped, the guy who was showing me what to do bent over the cup and smelled the wet grounds. He then, still bent over, turned his head to the side and then turned his nose back to the cup. For one very scary moment I thought he was listening to the coffee.


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