I have a vague recollection of a BBC comedy when I was growing up that was centred around two oenophiles who would open a bottle onscreen, pause for a moment then pour their hearts out with the most ridiculous of descriptors claiming they could taste a “one-armed grape picker, swallows flying nearby and rare Nassau mango pressed through a turkey fillet (no skin) into a bucket of 3 day old daisy clippings”. These aren’t direct quotes, but I’m sure you get my meaning.
Anyway, when it became obvious to me that an integral part of Barista Competitions was interpreting flavours and aromas I signed up, a little wearily, to a course entitled “The Science of Taste and Aroma” being held at my old Alma Matter, the University College of Dublin.
Flavour descriptors had always seemed evasive and sometimes even ridiculous. It was quite daunting to try and portray in words how you perceive a taste. The biggest fear for most people, myself included, is that you could just be plain wrong. What if my “fruit” is another man’s “nut”, so to speak. There is also the fear that perhaps would be beyond me, that only a select few can really interpret flavours and aromas accurately.
The course itself ran for 8 weeks and I can say hand on heart became pivotal in the success I had in BaristaCompetitions thereafter. The lecturer David Jackson, a Scientist and Taster with Diaggeo/Guinness explained the reasons why a wine can smell like strawberry and helped everyone understand the science behind it.
The course helped me understand that there is a well grounded science behind interpreting flavours and that seeking blueberries in Sidamo was something that had a sound rational reasoning. Perhaps it is the natural skepticism that every Dublineris born with but once I had this fact-based foundation it became very easy for me to begin interpreting flavours and aromas.
Anyway, I am ridiculously pleased to be asked to speak at Davids upcoming weekend course in Trinity College on the 5th and 6th of July, specifically on Coffee and the flavours and aromas found therein. This course for me was an invaluable asset in appreciating not just coffee, but wine, beer, cheese and any other foodstuff I could get hold of. I hope to see you there