It should be fact to you, at best. It is in essence, what it makes you think of. I don't think everyone has the gift of the Ken David's nose and palate, but we all know basic everyday things that coffee sometimes remind us of. I tell people in our cuppings to write whatever comes to mind first. What does it remind you of?
In describing coffees for literature, start with the basics: Nutty, fruity, spicy, or mellow. Then, proceed with the other flavors or scents it reminds you of. More people are likely to be able to identify with it that way. The reality is that even though you got blueberry, I got dark plum, and we are both on the right path, and that's what I meant by start with the basics. You got cardamom, I get cinnamon. See?
Great question, though. Remember, the ultimate goal is to help people get what you get, so stick to what you know....
If the consumer does not taste or perceive what is in the description, than is the description wrong?
Each individual has a different acuity for gustation and olfaction, that is a sense of taste and smell. Also, we each have a different perspective on quality and intensity for acidity, body, and sweetness. I respect Ken Davids, but do not think he has ability different than any other trained and experienced coffee taster.
What I am seeking to know from the community is if these descriptions, as flowery and literary as they are becoming are in fact to be presented as fact to the consumer or the opinion of the barista.
We seem to be moving towards very poetic, creative and associative descriptions for espresso and coffee. Baristas seem to be seeking the most exotic and far-reaching items for comparison. Jason, thanks for your input and response.
When I read a drink description on a menu should that be presented as fact or opinion?
Ahh, I got ya. Well, what may be fact to you, may indeed be your opinion. The fact is, like you stated, that we all have different senses. I think if we share what we get out of it, it gives the other person an idea of the taste and flavor profile. It is ultimately, opinion. One thing that is cool when I lead public cuppings, is the end, when we go over what we all wrote on the cupping notes sheet. It's cool to see that people learn alot about flavors through that process, and alot of them identify with the notes of others, even if they didn't see it themselves. Like I said, it's opinion, even if I think it's a fact the Biloya tasted like blueberry tea.
I think there is a duality to coffee descriptions.
As industry professionals we all look for accurate detailed descriptions. We respect our peers when they can identify nuances in a coffee. We do our best to objectify our descriptions because if we don't then we threaten the whole fabric of objective coffee grading.
I appreciate factual coffee descriptions within the industry. As a coffee buyer I expect my importers description to be very close to what I taste.
With that said, I think the most important description is between the retailer and the consumer. And the most powerful descriptions are hardly scientific and objective. I think we should push detailed and accurate taste descriptions, but the story is what sells. Fancy it up! Tell the customer about the high altitudes and rich volcanic soil. Tell the customer what a Cup of Excellence is. Say "Fair Trade Organic Ethiopian Harrar Oromia" instead of Fair Trade Organic Ethiopian.
Spencer this is good. Thanks for bringing this up. There was a great discussion in another forum about a similar topic. I think descriptors are cultural memory driven experiences. Meaning, that usually, you remember something better with the sense of smell, so we will remember the last time we tasted or smelled something...where was it? what were we doing? what was it? We are always looking for reminders, I don't know if anything that is subjective could become a "fact". An opinion? I am not sure either. I think an opinion might lead to either good or bad, but not specific descriptors. And if I have never had Nutella, or a kumquat or a Dr. Pepper, does that mean that my opinion is off if I don't call those things out? Or are these cultural conundrums when it comes to food culture?
I think descriptors should focus on the most real nuances, the most straightforward with a bit of a turn somewhere, only to push you to think beyond the conventional, but not to the point where the descriptor scares you away from the coffee.
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