Even people who aren’t regular wine drinkers know that wines are chock full of flavors like berries, herbs, chocolate and other elements. There are classes you can take to increase your wine tasting knowledge and skill, and flavor wheels to help you learn to put a name to the notes you’re picking up. But coffee drinkers don’t usually have the same resources. Coffee tasting classes are few and far between, but there is a Coffee Tasting Kit at Uncommon Goods – a fun shop that always offers up unique gift ideas for men (here) and for women (here) – that can help you conduct your own coffee tasting workshop at home.
The Jean Lenoir Le Nez du Cafe includes a brief guidebook and six tiny bottles of fragrance that contain six common – and very different – scents that are often found in brewed coffee. These scents include Garden Peas, Blackcurrant, Butter, Caramel, Roasted Peanuts and Roasted Coffee, and the handbook describes them in great detail and also gives hints as to which types of coffee you might find these aromas in. The general idea is that you can use these bottles to memorize key scents in coffee and you can later call them back to better identify the flavors in your coffee and to better describe them.
You can work with the scents in a way that makes sense to you. Some people prefer to work with the scents alone. I liked to work with them one at a time, smelling them against a freshly brewed cup of coffee. The fragrances are very strong, so they really stand out even against the coffee, and it is easy to get a sense of what it would be like to pick out just that note from a coffee you haven’t tried before. It takes some practice, but this is a great way to train your nose and increase your understanding of how complex coffee can be.