Saturday, July 25, 2009

At The Cupping Table: Coffeehouse-Five

Readers of this blog are most likely aware that Portland Coffeehouse Journal does the Twitter thing. I've been really encouraged by the number of followers I've garnered in such a short time.

But sometimes, for whatever reason, people stop following me. And while I try not to take it personally, it makes me reevaluate the message that I'm sending through the Twitter-tubes and try to see if it's worth reading.

So when I woke up one morning I noticed that my followers had diminished slightly in the last couple of days. Maybe there's just not enough exciting Portland coffee news out there, I thought.

But really, I can't blame Portland for not being an interesting Tweeter. Determined to get back on track I started making a game plan to visit a bunch of new shops, write a list of new blog post ideas, start some rumors, update links on the blog, etc. (Just kidding about the rumors)

And then this came across my Twitter feed:

Surprisingly, I have never participated in a cupping before. I feel a little ashamed to admit that since I am such a coffee fan and live in such a coffee-fueled city. But there it is.

I've seen cuppings occur at Extracto Coffeehouse and Ristretto Roasters, but never had the time to really go through one beginning to end.

So I biked over to Coffeehouse-Five to give it a go.

Coffeehouse-Five is a relatively newer coffeehouse on the corner of Killingsworth and Albina, across from Portland Community College.

Originally they served Seattle's Caffe Vita coffee but have switched over to local micro-roaster Coava Coffee.

Sam Purvis of Coffeehouse-Five took us through the cupping process explaining the rules like there is no talking or reacting to the coffees as you sniff and slurp. You don't want to influence the other tasters with your reactions!

Sam ground up five different single origins from Coava but kept their identities hidden from us tasters.

He did let us know that the boldness of each coffee increased from left to right as we sniffed and tasted so that an exceptionally strong coffee did not overpower the next, lighter roast.

First we all did a "dry sniff" which includes agitating the grounds in the cups and then taking a big whiff making sure to keep your mouth open when you breathe it in.

This will help bring the scents to the back of the nasal passages and help your brain identify what you are smelling as food and help pick out subtle notes and aromas.

It seemed weird at first but you really need to get your face close to the coffee and then bam! A whole new world of coffee flavors will come springing out of those cups!

After the dry sniff, hot water is poured over the cups and we begin the next round of sniffing. It is really amazing what a difference there is between the dry grounds and the grounds being brewed.

We waited the appropriate amount of time and then Sam led us in a demonstration of how to break the crust that has formed from the wet grounds on top of the cup.

More sniffing and then finally the grounds are gently skimmed from the top of the cup and we are ready to start slurping! Tasting coffee appropriately requires taking in a lot of air as you take in the liquid. So in order to get the most aeration you need to slurp loudly and quickly.

This takes practice as my slurps were nowhere near as loud as the professionals at the table.

We go through a few rounds of this as coffee will take on more of its personality as it cools.

It was a fun and eye-opening experience and I can't wait to try it again with other roasters. Sam let me know that Coffeehouse-Five hopes to open up their cupping table to any local roaster in Portland. All coffees are welcome to stop by and open up their bags of beans to be experienced by the public.

As of now, Coava will be available for sniffing and slurping every Saturday and Sunday at 3pm in Coffeehouse-Five. Be a coffee agnostic no longer. Make a point to stop by Coffeehouse-Five and practice the ritual of cupping.


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