Just wondering on how people have learned to develop their tasting skills - any advice or thoughts on how best we can learn to understand coffees flavours better?

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CUP CUP CUP CUP CUP CUP CUP CUP.

and of course just drink lots of coffee while thinking about what your tasting.
for developing skills, i think it's really just a matter of paying attention. to everything.

there are smells everywhere we turn, we just need to pinpoint them and translate the smell to what its origin is. your brain will be able to pick up what the smell is easier the next time you smell it. take a few bottles of spices at a time and focus on their scent. it'll help not just with discovering what certain flavors and aromas are, but also, what they are not, which is an equally helpful tool.

in regards to understanding coffees flavors better...it's almost impossible, in my mind, to put any rules together regarding all of the aspects of the flavors of coffee, but that's what makes it fun. every coffee, even those from the same strain and growing region, is different and is going to have different flavors rise and fall due to the way it is picked, processed, roasted, and brewed.
I have found in my own tasting experience that my skills develope I stages. I coast along and then bam! My palate is more sensitive all of a sudden. Some of these moments I can trace back directly to the coffee that did it or the food that did it, etc... Try to find some contrasting yet quality coffees to taste. Find contrasting roasts. Ask a lot of questions. Trust yourself and you instincts. Do not get discouraged. Drink a lot of water. Sleep well. Begin to cook more, and more interesting and different foods. Find a mentor. Be consistent in how you brew for your cuppings. Travel. Cup with other companies and keep your ears open. Experiment. Most of all, HAVE FUN!!! Relaxation helps me taste so much better. And lastly, cup often! If you don't use it, you'll lose it! Good luck! Let me know if you are ever in St. Louis. You're welcome to cup with us any time!!
I think alot of us who have done wine appreciation courses would say that understanding raw palletes of aroma and flavor comes from working closely with experienced cuppers. I well remember by first wine tasting lessons back in the mid-80's. A sav blanc, a chardonnay, a pinot gris, a riesling...all "tasted" and "smelled" wonderfully different, but I had trouble pulling out the appropriate matches- our teacher put the wine asside for one lesson and gave us a range of fresh fruits, cut grasses, flowers, spices to concentrate on and learn- blindfolded. Over an hour the "smells" we had taken for granted took on new relevance and it was pretty straightforward to then identify the green capsicum, passionfruits and fresh grass in the sav blancs, the ripe pineapples and citrics in the riesling...etc. I think it is pretty much the same for cupping. Learning the technique is not super difficult, sharpening the senses by using 'learning aids' relavant to the coffees is key.
All of the above is really good advice, but I had a couple other thoughts...

There are also wine profile kits that have viles of flavors that appear in wine. The tasting profiles of coffee and wine are incredibly similar and this would be extremely helpful. It is expensive, but worth the investment.

If you're just starting out, find somebody with a developed pallate and try to pin point the notes, then look for the one that they taste. If you're decent and want to get better find somebody about as good as you and do the same.
is it worth getting the Le Nez du Vin/Cafe kits? they cover so many 'mostly generic' smells, that it might be better imo just buying $150 of fruit/veg/tobacco/spices etc. (ex-chef/aromatherapy/incense person here)
the Le Nez du Cafe can be used over and over again, where the fruit, etc, can only be used within a short period of time before it expires. I like the thought of using fresh produce, but then prefer the thought of training myself from week to week. In you can afford to drop the dough, i highly recommend the kit. Then you can, in turn, use the kit to either train with or train others.



Coffeehorse said:
is it worth getting the Le Nez du Vin/Cafe kits? they cover so many 'mostly generic' smells, that it might be better imo just buying $150 of fruit/veg/tobacco/spices etc. (ex-chef/aromatherapy/incense person here)

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