Café Imports Introduces Process-Specific Cupping Standards

 

Brazil process

Brazil process

In response to the overwhelming popularity of alternatively processed coffees in the specialty coffee industry, Café Imports has developed groundbreaking cupping standards for use in evaluating these special coffees. These cupping standards—available for Washed, Natural, Wet-Hulled, Brazil, and Decaf—are the first of their kind in the world.

Not only that, Café Imports is sharing them for free to anyone who wants to give them a spin: just download them HERE.

 

Experimental processing at J. Hill y Cia in El Salvador

Experimental processing at J. Hill y Cia in El Salvador

I think 2011 and 2012 were the first years that café owners and baristas began sitting up and noticing coffees that were processed using these experimental methods; certainly the 2012 United States Barista Championship goes down in history for the high number of competitors who not only used alternatively processed coffees, but shaped their entire performances around the vibrant, unique flavor profiles of these coffees.

Cuppers were in love with these coffees, too—and yet, they were perplexed. The original Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) standard cupping protocol just didn’t work for evaluating coffees from these processing methods.

Café Imports green buyer and co-owner Jason Long was frustrated by that. “It’s like trying to score blue cheese on a cheddar form,” he now-famously said to the staff at Café Imports, the Minneapolis-based specialty coffee importer serving roasters around the world of all sizes. Immediately, Jason and Café Imports’ director of sensory analysis, Ian Fretheim, got to work on a mission: to create some new standards to be used at the cupping table when coffees from these processes are up for evaluation.

“Over the course of the last year, I’ve followed and then taken the lead in developing distinct standards for the cup scoring of variously processed coffees,” writes Ian in his fantastic article for Barista Magazine’s April/May 2013 issue. “Today we use five separate scoring standards in our green cupping: Washed, Natural, Wet Hulled, Brazil, and Decaf. What follows is a description of how these standards came about, the thinking behind them, and how we now use them in our daily analysis of green coffee.”

(Be sure to check out the April/May 2013 issue of Barista Magazine to read Ian’s fascinating account, and explore notes on the actual sheets. The magazine will be available to view online for free at our website, baristamagazine.com, starting April 1; it will be mailed to subscribers the first week of April, and we’ll also be giving thousands of copies away for free at the SCAA show in Boston.)

Some of the Cafe Imports team (including Ian at far left) working with the new cupping forms.

Some of the Cafe Imports team (including Ian at far left) working with the new cupping forms.

Where we wondered in 2012 whether alternatively processed coffees were simply a trend, they’ve proved their staying power through their enormous popularity with the best baristas and roasters both in the U.S. and abroad.

It only seems natural that the next step would be to have cupping standards specifically designed for these alternatively processed coffees—Café Imports has seriously delivered.

“These forms are dynamic, organic things,” Jason told me over the phone last week. He wanted to be sure I understood that, as these processing methods are constantly evolving themselves, the Café Imports standards are also malleable. “We’re not saying this is the rule for how to evaluate these coffees, period. These processes don’t allow for something set in stone like that.”

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.