Coffee is very complex in chemical composition and flavor. More than 400 organic and inorganic chemical compounds are present in the coffee bean and not one can be regarded as the primary component in it’s flavor. And not only that, but then every human palate responds in a unique way to sensations of aroma and taste.
Imagine a coffee competition with many judges. It is a normal practice before an event like this the judges to have a calibration. What they do actually is making sure they evaluate every coffee the same way, but also that every judge is giving the right name to each flavor. Otherwise, as you can imagine, their scoring sheets would be quite different from one another and wouldn’t make sense. This is their way of deciding what tastes like what.
When we speak about life though, there is no calibration. And from there comes the problem, how do you know what are you tasting? Is it sour? Is it bitter? How do you know that what you’re sensing on your palate is the same as what others are sensing? That you’re talking about the same thing?
You don’t. You assume you know.
When you’re younger you tend to mimic your parents, your siblings, you develop your taste, but many of us don’t go very far in that. Yes, there are the so called super tasters and non-tasters and average tasters (some people have more tastebuds than others), but in everyday life it comes to if you like it or not. And that’s it. Taste is rarely discussed. Then you start cupping coffee, you start listening how the experienced cuppers discuss its acidity, sweetness, mouthfeel and you cannot help it but feel dumb. To you coffee it is just bitter and yet you haven’t heard them saying anything about that. But again, do you know what bitter is? That’s how it all starts.
Welcome to Tasting intelligence, the blogpost series where we’ll calibrate together 🙂