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What purpose do tasting notes serve?

A common question we get in our cafes is, “Do your coffees get roasted or brewed with the foods listed on your 12oz bags?”.  We don’t ever roast or brew our coffee with any other ingredients. There are lots of ways to describe our sensory experiences with coffee, and our bags do this by employing the use of tasting notes in order to accurately describe what our coffees taste like. The reason we use these tasting notes on our bag is for the purpose of describing the qualities that make each coffee unique and great.   With our Flatiron Blend, we think that “Dark Chocolate, Praline & Dates” do a really nice job of describing that Flatiron is a full bodied, sweet, and traditional tasting coffee. But there aren’t actually nuts or chocolate brewed into the cup.

Inside of Flatiron (and all roasted coffee) there are many edible soluble components which dissolve when exposed to water, and these solubles work in congruity to create all the flavors found in coffee.  When trying to objectively judge the quality of coffee, there are multiple factors which we take into careful consideration: sweetness, acidity, body, uniformity, aftertaste, body, balance, cleanliness, and uniformity.  We judge these factors on quality and intensity, in order to paint an objective picture of our offerings, and help us to maintain a coffee lineup that has something for everyone. These standards are universal across the specialty coffee industry, but they aren’t the only way that we judge coffee.

These systems of objective judgement are crucial in the process of maintaining quality and uniformity in our coffee program, but they fall short of describing the experience of drinking coffee.  We include these descriptions on our bags in an attempt to bridge the divide between objective qualities and subjective experience. Some of our wilder single origins can have descriptions like “Raspberry, Meyer Lemon & Cotton Candy”.  We describe our coffee this way in order to draw connections between the shared qualities of coffee and other foods. This helps to provide depth to our descriptions, and paints a fuller picture of the unique qualities of each of our coffees.  Coffee exists as both a product which can be strictly and objectively judged, as well as a unique culinary experience that can be thoughtlessly enjoyed. Tasting notes do more than just describe the sensory qualities of coffee, they help us to describe what it’s like to enjoy the experience of drinking coffee.  

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