It’s Saturday afternoon at Campos HQ in Fortitude Valley and the smell of freshly ground coffee wafts through the air. Despite the time of day there’s a heady queue of people waiting for a table. But for once we’re not here for the food. We make our way through the crowded cafe to a nondescript grey door in the back corner. After checking that our phones are on silent we are ushered inside to the Cupping Room, a purpose built room designed specifically for coffee tasting.
Cupping refers to the process used to observe the taste (and to a lesser extent, the aroma) of brewed coffee. Professional coffee buyers around the world use cupping to check the quality of the beans they are purchasing. For this reason, the Speciality Coffee Association of America’s has developed a strict protocol for cupping which means the process is the same regardless of where you are in the world. Campos now offers coffee enthusiasts the opportunity to take part in this unique experience at their Wandoo Street store. Cupping sessions are held on Saturday and Sunday afternoons (you can make bookings here) and cost $30 per person which includes a 250g pack of your favourite roast to take home.
Inside the Cupping Room sits a long white table under moody lighting. On its gleaming surface are sample pots of freshly ground coffee (5 pots per person) together with other requisites in the game – spoons and small glasses of water. We join the other 4 coffee connoisseurs and grab a seat at our tasting ‘station’. Once again we are reminded to turn our phones to silent. Photography is also not permitted as cupping is meant to be performed with minimal noise and distraction 😦 Strong perfumes are also discouraged for obvious reasons but it doesn’t really matter – everything smells like coffee in here.
The 45-minute session starts with a powerpoint presentation on how Campos sources its green beans from various producers across the world, followed by the fine art of bean roasting. In a corner of the room, a kettle is boiling water for the tasting. We smell the pots of roasted grounds while waiting for the water to cool, inhaling and savouring the aroma of each roast. And boy did I savour that aroma – I LOVE the smell of fresh coffee more than its taste. But as I was to learn, the aroma only makes up a small portion of the coffee’s character.
Once the water has cooled to 92°C it’s added to the roasted grounds and allowed to steep for 5 minutes. We are instructed on how to break the crust on the cooling coffee with our spoon before smelling it again to note the difference in the aroma. Happily I note that it’s much more intense and concentrated than the dry roast. We then remove the crust and sample the resulting liquors to distinguish the flavour, acidity, after-taste, body and balance of each roast. Unless you like your coffee shots neat then you may not enjoy this part of the tasting experience!
After the cupping session you get to choose a 250g sample of your favourite Campos beans to take home with you. Decisions, decisions! For us, this was an Ethiopian single origin and the Obama Blend (oh come on, how can you not?!). We decided to put our new found skills to practice by tasting a few coffees – thankfully this flat white was made by the properly trained Campos barista and not us so tasted fantastic!
If you love coffee then I would highly recommend you do a cupping experience. I enjoyed it and learned some useful things during the session. Even though I don’t drink it all that often, I can now appreciate the character of a coffee and I am getting better at identifying flavour notes. But old habits die hard – I still love the aroma!
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