Ozone Coffee Roasters opened its doors in London in March and shortly after I was there to taste the coffee and write a review for Mondomulia. I loved the space, service, food and coffee and have been a regular customer ever since.
On one occasion, I was chatting to Operations Manager, Lizzie Bain, and she mentioned that Paul Newbold, Ozone’s Head Roaster who works at the original coffee-house in New Zealand, was coming to London to attend UKBC12. Lizzie invited me to come along for a cupping session and so a few days later I was back at Ozone with Hoi of Coming Soon and Helen of Living Longingly.
It was a fantastic experience! Not only it was my first cupping session, but it was also amazing to meet Paul, who has enormous experience in sourcing the best coffee worldwide and is an international jury member of the Cup of Excellence programme.
Afterwards, Helen kindly asked me to write an article about cupping for Completely London, a blog about events in London for which she is the online editor. I was happy to say yes, but the process of researching for and writing the article was long and difficult. I am not a writer and I feel more comfortable expressing myself with photos than with words. So it was a great relief to know that Helen was willing to edit my article before publishing it online! She did a great work and I was very proud when the post was published.
Today I am sharing with you my original article and all my favourite photos from the cupping session at Ozone! Beware: you are entering geeky zone!
A taste revolution is taking place in the coffee world. For years, retail chains and supermarkets have dominated the market, blending coffee beans to create recognizable flavours and uniform our taste. But coffee is a complex product and it would be impossible to define one ideal of quality, when so many factors affect our appreciation of it: habits, cultural traditions and expectations.
A small, but growing, segment of the market is occupied by “specialty coffee”: high quality, sustainable and unconventional sourced from selected farms. Experts in the field are constantly on the look for outstanding beans. The demand for special and differentiated coffees has pushed the established boundaries of what is generally considered to be “a good coffee”, opening the way to new and exciting flavours.
London is taking part in this coffee revolution and, in recent years, has seen a growth in independent coffee shops and roasters, many of which offer free public cupping sessions.
Cupping is the practice of tasting coffees from different farms in order to understand their basic taste. For a roaster, cupping is the key to create successful blends. For the coffee lover, it is a way to explore unique flavour profiles, discover new varieties of beans and define personal preferences.
During cupping the coffee is tasted and distinguished by differences in flavour, aroma, fragrance, body, sweetness, acidity, balance, aftertaste and complexity. Many factors can influence the tasting session, therefore it’s important to cup the same beans several times before passing a judgment. There are no rights or wrongs, just opinions and preferences.
Coffee is judged in its basic form – roasted, grinded and brewed with filter water. The beans are roasted lightly and rested for a few days; they are grinded coarsely and brewed with hot water for around 3-4 minutes.
After the coffee is brewed, the grinds create a crust on the water surface; “breaking the crust” is the way to clean the surface and release the coffee aroma.
The grinds are then removed and the cupper uses a spoon to slurp the coffee strongly. Aspirating the coffee across the tongue and palate is the way to evaluate flavors, body, and acidity. Finally, the coffee is spat out in an empty cup, instead of being swallowed, as too much caffeine alters our cupping abilities.
Commodity coffee is here to stay, but the popularity of specialty beans and the practice of cupping have already altered the way customers approach coffee.
Our expectations are changing as there is a new focus on the experience: from drinking coffee as a habit, to having a specialty coffee tasting ritual. More and more customers are not looking for a uniform taste of coffee anymore; they are willing to discover the amazing, unique character of every coffee.