The Boundaries of Natural Cup Profiles


The most obvious one surrounds the authenticity and transparency of these coffees. The cause of the flavour clearly matters, in that is something actually what you say it is. Have those flavours come from the magical natural combination of variables that dictate the flavour of the seed of a cherry from a coffee plant, or have you added them afterwards.

Of course all coffee is manipulated by us humans to one degree or another and we are using techniques to help achieve the most positive cup profile, but this is different to a “flavour additive”.

It was interesting to watch at the Roastery as the interest and appetite for the cinnamon profile changed completely when samples were presented as having the flavour added. Cinnamon is a pretty nice taste after-all. I personally had found the cups quite one dimensional all along, but they were pretty tasty. But the amazement that coffee could naturally taste of cinnamon was lost and it totally changed peoples experience of those coffees.

There is still a strong claim that some of the cinnamon characteristics are being achieved without additives, but it's just so hard to know.

With a lot of experimentation now happening in coffee, one can’t help but question other over powering flavours that are new to some of the cup profiles we are seeing.

We have been tasting a processing technique a lot over the last year that creates a distinct and overwhelming ripe stone-fruit flavour. In this case the producers are explaining that careful manipulation and control of culture and bacteria is what’s driving the flavour fingerprint in these processes.

The coffees does taste very good and the flavour is very integrated, more so than cinnamon coffee for me.

We tasted coffees the past week that had strawberry added. It really did taste like the addition of a strawberry syrup. These methods used lactic acid in the fermentation tank and it's clearly interesting that these methods are being mastered. Many coffee people who had experimented with adding fruit to fermentation tanks told me it doesn’t make any difference, so clearly thee is a skill or craft to getting these processes to work.

Once we get past the question of transparency, we move to a discussion of what we have an appetite for in terms of flavour intervention. Is it comparable to the addition of fruit in beer, or the use of specific yeast strains in wine?

I am not sure where the coffee communities appetite will end up in terms of which processes will be embraced and those that won't be. For me I think it comes down to the very concept of terroir, though of course you can argue all terroir is highly manipulated.

Maybe in the future coffee will see an equivalent of the natural wine movement whereby coffee gets produced with as little human intervention as possible.

Really when I am tasting coffee, tasting unique profiles and characters based on the plant and environment is what I get excited about. When something has happened to the coffee that means the natural identity is lost, it becomes more commoditised.

On the other hand, if other variables can be introduced to coffee during its processing that create unique results and display a combination of the different influences on the coffee, I think that’s still interesting.

I think this conversation will continue to be had as we explore the boundaries of coffee, and not just in our Roastery!