”There is a free cupping session in Berlin tomorrow and it’s not far from here, would you like to go?”
I literally didn’t know what to think and answer when Dale asked me the above question, simply because I had no idea what he meant by “cupping session”. He must have read my puzzled face and explained to me what it was all about.
I was kind of excited to take part in a coffee tasting for various reasons, first of all you should know by now how much I LOVE coffee and how addicted to it I am. Nevertheless that doesn’t make me an expert when it comes to coffee, I know exactly what I like the most and how I prefer to drink my coffee, but when it comes to identifying more specific characteristics of this delicious drink, I wouldn’t even know where to start. That’s why I was so interested in this first coffee cupping opportunity here in Berlin, I thought it would be a good experience to learn more about coffee and to perhaps try some new flavours.
On the other hand I was a bit nervous too because, not being an expert but someone that likes coffee and only knows what to order in a coffee shop and what to buy into a shop; I was worried that at the following day event there may have be some coffee skilled people that would talk a language completely new for me and I’d feel like an ignoramus in comparison.
With apprehension the following day we joined the free cupping at Café CK in Berlin who kindly let us take pictures of the event. There were other people too, but not too many, there were six of us in total which gave us the chance to enjoy the coffee tasting comfortably enough. Another thing I was kind of worried about was that the whole session would have been in German of which unfortunately I don’t know a word (shame on me!), but thankfully the barista was English and after checking if everybody else was ok with it, he explained everything in English instead of German phew!
Let the Game Begin!
After realizing that we both Dale and I were beginners, the barista briefly explained what cupping is and what we should expect from it. I soon came to the conclusion that everybody else in the group was kind of a master and that particular cupping event certainly wasn’t their first time.
Cupping is basically a way to evaluate different aspects of a particular coffee bean and in our case we were about to blind test seven different coffees, before describing and comparing them against each other. The barista might have read some uncertainty from my facial expression and clarified that sometimes at the first cupping you might not even notice any difference between the coffees. He simply said to relax, not to have any expectations, to try and describe the differing flavours (if any), to share our findings with the rest of the group, and to very simply pick a favourite,.
The cupping began with the barista grounding the seven different coffee beans, and though they beans probably weren’t as fresh as the coffee (almost) straight from the tree that Living The Dream experienced recently, the coffees chosen were all grounded in the same way and at the same weight, we were then invited to smell them to see if we could start to notice any differences. I soon found one in particular had a very distinctive smell that almost didn’t resemble coffee at all (at least to me), which I didn’t really like. This really surprised me, I wasn’t expecting that grounded coffee would smell differently from the whole beans, I know I’m not a pro!
Once we all had a good sniff, the barista went on by pouring some hot water into the cups ready for the breaking of the crust. In fact the grounded coffee floated on top and kind of created a layer that, after few minutes of letting the coffee brew, was “broken” with the help of the back of a spoon followed by plenty of sniffing the aroma that comes out. Then it was time to taste the various coffees of which none of us knew anything about, trying to collect as many characteristics about them as we could pick up.
I have to admit that this was the hardest part for me because we were supposed to go around and slurp each coffee, you read it correctly, slurp.
Not only am I not good at it but I also dislike the noise that comes from slurping, so doing it myself was quite challenging and made me feel slightly uneasy. Apparently slurping is the best way to taste the coffee because lets in more air which helps to feel the aroma more and the taste of the coffee itself. So I went on trying each coffee by starting from the one of which I didn’t like the smell, I wanted to get a clear taste of it without being overwhelmed after having tried several coffees.
To my surprise, I really liked its taste. It strangely didn’t recall its previous smell at all, I was kind of amazed how I could actually not only taste coffee but a kind of nuttiness and slight fruitiness too.
I went on trying all the other coffees, some were richer, some smoother, one was too bitter for my liking and almost tasted burnt, some were very delicate and the others tasted just like the normal coffee I usually drink. After a bit I couldn’t really taste much more, it was too much and all in one go for a beginner like me I guess, plus I couldn’t stop thinking of the first coffee I tried and had I fell in love with straight away. I gave it another go before finishing just to make sure it was my favourite, and yes it was indeed.
We started describing what we tasted during the cupping, which flavours came out and some guys that knew coffee very well could already guess where the beans were from, which kind of process they went through and more. I’m glad they didn’t start describing the coffees whilst I was still trying them because I’m sure I would have got influenced by it.The barista started revealing one by one all the coffee we tasted, my favourite was from Kenya and Dale’s was the only one in the set of which the beans hadn’t been washed, using the ‘red honey‘ method (don’t worry, it’s vegan!).
Warning, It Might Get Addictive!
Before the event I knew nothing and wouldn’t have even thought of attending, let alone writing about it, but I enjoyed it so much that I thought I’d share our experience so that more people will know about the chance to join this coffee cupping in Berlin considering there are a lot of cafes and bars that offer it for free, in actual fact we should add it to our tips on things to do in Berlin
Cupping opened a complete new world to me, I discovered flavours and differences between coffees that I never would have even thought existed. I also have to admit that my fear of being surrounded by experts turned out to be an actual pleasure. I enjoyed listening to the others, comparing thoughts and opinions. I also think that as my first cupping experience, being with others opened my eyes and taste buds to some characteristics in a coffee that I might have missed otherwise. It taught me that coffee isn’t just something to drink when I wake up in the morning to start my day, but making the right kind for the right taste buds is an art that requires deep knowledge.
This isn’t our first visit to Berlin, but we never heard of these free cupping events before, or perhaps we weren’t looking for them, but I think that this time whilst in Berlin we’ll look for more coffee cupping opportunities, it’s a completely new way for me to enjoy and learn more about something that I simply adore – coffee!
Have you ever taken part in a coffee cupping?
Transport for the day was provided to us by VisitBerlin and their easy to use Berlin WelcomeCard, making it super easy to commute during our stay. All thoughts and opinions are, as always, our own.