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Friday, June 5, 2009

Cup,Slurp,Identify, & Describe

Close your eyes for a moment. When was the last time you really experienced something? Was it the taste of a delectable dessert? Was it the sweet morning air? Perhaps it was a song that captured your ear and brought you back to a moment or place in time.

During my tenure at Starbucks my absolute favorite activity was the coffee tasting. It was something that was drilled into me from the moment I walked through the doors. We did coffee tastings for everything:meetings,first days, parties, and just for the fun of it. The point of it was to get the partners as well as customers involved in understanding the complexities of coffee. We usually paired it with a dessert that complimented the flavors in the coffee. Nothing delighted me more than when I would conduct a partners first impressions. We would always start with a tasting. I favored a French press of Kenyan coffee for the first day, and usually paired it with a lemon bar. I loved to watch as an ordinary cup of coffee was transformed in front of them. It did not matter if the partner was a coffee drinker or not. I always got a reaction once they made the connection between the flavors of the coffee and the pastry.

The basic steps were to cup the coffee and get a good whiff of what you were about to taste. The next step was to slurp. This had a two fold purpose. The first was that it cooled the coffee down so that you could actually taste, and the second helped to spray the liquid across the pallet so a true flavor profile could be assessed. After getting a good taste you could then identify what parts of the tongue were affected by the flavor. Last but not least we described what we had tasted.

I may be losing some of you who don't love coffee, but bear with me. The reason I loved this practice so much was not simply because I enjoy coffee. It really was the experience of awakening the senses to something deeper than the eye can see. Too often we resort to hyper drive in our fast paced society. We inhale food, ingest millions of bits of information, and simply run through life without stopping to allow our senses to catch up. There is something pure and wonderful about stopping and allowing the senses to soak in the experience. I promise the price of time will be well rewarded.

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