On the Cupping Bench
Cupping is an integral aspect of our business and part of our daily routine in the Bennetts office. We are cupping coffee every day - if not twice a day, and we evaluate every sample that comes through the door.
Quality is of utmost importance to us, and for this reason we choose to follow the SCAA cupping protocols that are universally recognised and accepted around the world. With the 2014 SCAA Event drawing near, we thought it would be a good opportunity to provide a brief background on the SCAA and share why we choose to subscribe to their protocols.
The Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) was established in 1982 by a small group of industry professionals seeking a common forum to discuss and set quality standards for the specialty coffee trade. Since its inception, the SCAA has grown into the world’s largest coffee trade association with nearly 3,000 members. Each year the SCAA hold an Exposition and Symposium, bringing together producers, roasters, suppliers, traders, sustainability experts and development organisations from all over the world to share knowledge and promote improvement within specialty coffee. The SCAA have established numerous education programs for baristas, roasters and coffee tasters; offering training in sustainability, roasting, processing, grading and evaluation.
The SCAA Green Coffee and Cupping protocols have grown to become one of the most recognised and acknowledged set of industry standards in the world. Cupping is a fundamental part of the coffee industry, and is undertaken at several links in the supply chain. A coffee must be cupped at origin to determine its quality before it can be prepared for export. Importers rely on cupping to source the highest quality coffee and to ensure that quality remains consistent from offer through to arrival. Once a coffee that has been purchased arrives into Australia it must be evaluated to determine cup profile and quality, which can help guide roasters in their selection and purchasing. Ideally, once the coffee is purchased by the roaster it will be cupped once more to determine its ideal use, does it suit a particular blend or can it be served as a single origin? Each evaluation that occurs along the supply chain has a particular purpose, and is vital to ensure superior quality. The widespread nature and timeframe of these individual evaluations require a recognised cupping procedure to ensure results can be generalised throughout the supply chain; this is where the SCAA cupping protocols come into play.
The SCAA cupping protocols ensure the ability to most accurately assess the quality of an individual coffee. Samples are rated on a numerical scale, ranging from 1 to 10 and increasing in 0.25 increments. When cupping, a coffee is evaluated on several important flavour attributes: fragrance/aroma, flavour, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, uniformity, clean cup, sweetness, and defects. The coffee is also awarded an overall score. To accurately assess the coffee, an optimum ratio of water to coffee is used and the coffee should be aspirated into the mouth. The fragrance/aroma score is first evaluated based on sniffing the dry grounds and then the wet once the coffee has infused. Typically, the flavour and aftertaste will be scored approximately 8-10 minutes after infusion, when the coffee has cooled to 71°C. As the coffee continues to cool the acidity, body and balance are rated. When the coffee has reached room temperature, sweetness, uniformity and clean cup are evaluated. The overall score is determined by the cupper based on all of the combined attributes. The evaluation process must be approached impartially and unbiased, however the overall score is based on the flavour experience of the individual cupper and so this is the only score where personal opinion may be considered. When using the SCAA cupping guidelines, an overall score of 6.00-6.75 is considered good, 7.00-7.75 is considered very good, 8.00-8.75 is considered excellent, and 9.00-9.75 is considered outstanding.
By subscribing to the SCAA protocols, we can be assured our cup scores are consistent and in line with origin partners and exporters overseas. We are able to offer comprehensive feedback to producers, effectively in a language that is universally understood. Aligning our protocols with the SCAA also ensure that we remain up to date within the industry and are able to source the highest quality coffee from various origins around the world.
In 2014, the SCAA will hold the 26th annual Event and the 6th annual symposium in Seattle, Washington. The Event will play host to the US Coffee Championships, and include a Brew Bar where Roasters Choice competition coffees can be sampled and a coffee quality exhibition will be held. The symposium will run seminars and discussions about science, economics, and leadership within the industry; paying particular attention to the volatility of the coffee market and sustainable supply chains.
If you’re planning on heading to the SCAA 2014 Event, our friends at Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company are hosting tours of their production facility in Vancouver after the event. To book a tour or find out more, contact the office or tweet @SwissWater.