An article in today’s The News-Gazette from Champaign, IL reported on some of the nuances of coffee cupping, or the process by which coffee professionals taste and evaluate coffee for purchase, blending, etc.: AP Wire | 04/05/2006 | ILLINOIS STYLE: Champaign coffee roaster rates Dominican coffee. A local roaster visited the Dominican Republic, where the locals treat it as a national product, and compared notes with judges as far and wide as Norway and Japan.

While coffee cupping is often considered analogous to wine tasting, it has none of its associated sophistication and class. Coffee cupping is a process that’s devoid of any pretense and reduced down to its pure sensory essence: inhale, slurp with a spoon, and spit. This is not the process I followed in all the cafés I’ve reviewed here — and I’m sure much to the thanks of the owners, staff, and patrons at these establishments.

While I lifted nearly all of my espresso tasting criteria from the SCAA cupping forms (SCAA Excel cupping forms from the legendary Jim Schulman; PDF example for the SCAA Cup of Excellence®), I am always open to new perspectives on the topic. My latest interest? I recently ordered a book, titled Espresso Italiano Tasting, that’s available from the Istituto Internazionale Assaggiatori Caffè, or the International Institute of Coffee Tasters. I’ll be sure to report on it here when it arrives — probably in another three months after someone can swim it over here.

In the meantime, for some recommended reading on the basics of cupping from CoffeeGeek.com’s legendary Mark Prince:
http://www.coffeegeek.com/guides/beginnercupping.
But be warned: many coffee promoters are recently trying to turn cupping into the social equivalent of wine tasting, which has very different purposes and goals.