There are barista competitions that get a lot of press because consumers are interested in fancy coffee drinks, perfectly poured lattes and a little bit of flair that goes in to giving a customer a good experience. But tasting coffee comes before making coffee, and professional coffee tasters have their own championships, too. The U.S Cup Tasters Championship, held in Boston this past weekend, was a relatively low profile event by contrast. The event featured importers and buyers who pick out some of the best coffee beans in word competing to see whose palate was the best.
The two dozen competitors – from all over the country – had to taste eight three-cup sets of coffee and identify the odd one out in each set. “Some cups are so similar they come from the same region but from a different farm,” according the the Wall Street Journal. At the end of the day, one taster rose above the rest with a perfect score and a time that was nearly twice as fast as her closest rival, 26-year old Erin Wang, of ED&F Man unit Volcafe. Wang will be representing the US in the World Cup Tasters Championship in Nice, France, in June.
You really do need to be a pro to compete, but there are plenty of ways to practice by developing your own palate. Tasting coffees from the same or similar regions and comparing the differences – just like with wine tasting – will help you fine tune your palate for picking up those differences from one cup to the next.
You might have thought that squirrels got their seemingly endless energy for chasing each other, gathering nuts and taunting other animals naturally, but it turns out that squirrels might like coffee just as much as we do. Or at least they have a thing for coffee mugs. Archie McPhee sells a Squirrel Coffee Cup that is perfectly sized for our rodent friends. The porcelain cup measure 1-1/4″ x 1-1/4″ and is just the right size for a squirrel to pick up and sip from – as illustrated by this squirrel in A Squirrel’s Life, who certainly seems pleased with his.
Scifi and coffee have long gone hand and hand. I suspect that it has something to do with the fact that a cup of coffee – or a whole pot – helped to keep many gamers going when they wanted to stay up all night playing space-themed games and movie fans up for all-night space movie marathons. This Ray Gun Mug allows you to combine the two once and for all. The mug is shaped exactly like that ray gun you pictured as you romped through “outer space” as a kid, blasting space monsters and rocks alike to cosmic smithereens. You can hold it by the grip of the gun as you drink. The mug wholes 12-oz, which should give you plenty of fuel to complete any daily tasks, even if they are on the mundane side when compared to actual space exploration.
Peru is one of the top coffee-producing countries in the world, although it doesn’t necessarily come to my mind first when I think about coffee. So, I was slightly surprised to see that a Peruvian coffee was the newest addition to the Starbucks Reserve line on my last visit. Perú Aladino is named after one specific farmer – Aladino Delgado – in the Chontali District of Peru who uses an unusually processing method for preparing his beans. The beans are fermented in earthenware tanks before being dried in greenhouses which create a controlled microclimate to dry the beans as evenly and carefully as possible.
After one cup, I knew that this coffee was worth going out of your way for. It has a velvety texture and a strong toasted nut and toffee flavors, with a more subtle flavors that hinted at cream and cocoa. It is actually quite light and so well balanced that it is exceptionally easy to drink. I liked it best straight from the Clover at Starbucks, but it brews well in a french press and also makes very good iced coffee if you brew it a little stronger before pouring it over ice.