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Fruits and other ingredients on table

At the World Barista Championships that take place every year, the sensory evaluation for each contestant takes the same format.  Firstly, an espresso is made for the judges, which is swiftly followed by a milk drink.  Lastly, the milk drink is followed by a signature beverage that tends to get many oohs and aahs.  I accidentally stumbled upon this format in the lab this week and discovered something fun for you to try.

I’ve always found food fascinating since it’s so very subjective.  When discussing flavours with other people — especially coffee tasting notes – everyone seems to have mostly differing viewpoints about what they can taste.  Coupled with this, although we might be able to collectively agree when we taste an ‘obvious’ food, such as garlic, or salt, we can never be certain about what another person is actually tasting in their mouth.  Our chocolate could be their cabbage — who knows?

Choccie always follows crisps

Even as a child I would always make sure that foods would follow a certain order.  Salty foods, especially crisps, would have to precede a sweeter follow-up, like chocolate.  Somehow, the savoury foods would do something to my tastebuds which boost the perceived sweetness of the chocolate and make it all the more delicious.

The WBC rounds seem to make sense from a logical progression when you deconstruct a basic cup of coffee, but I’m sure it’s by no accident that it also works from a sensory basis.

This week I spent a lot of time working on milk drinks to ensure that the coffees we roast still taste good in milk.  Seeing how we can adjust the roast profile to alter flavours in the final milk drink.  Obviously, this is a whole post unto itself, however, it did lead to something else I found really interesting.

By using contrasting drink strengths from round to round, you help to boost the flavour perception of the following drink.

I can taste orange peel

The espresso is strong, punchy and brings the tastebuds alive.  It’s akin to having a rich starter at dinner to get the saliva going.  Then we move on to the milk drink.  The additional ingredient introduces a fuller palate of flavours combining the espresso notes with everything from the milk.  It’s a main course with volume and variety.  Then lastly, we have our signature drink.  For this, we don’t have to sous vide a rare Gesha or anything too crazy.

Simply make up the finest and most delicate coffee you own (or buy some – our Ato is a treat for this with its delicate berry note, particularly strawberry) and drink it last.  You can probably even skip the espresso, but I found the flavours and clarity are particularly nuanced after the milk drink.

All of the above does of course require that you have multiple coffees drinks in a row.  And it’s obviously too much for many drinkers who can only fathom a single drink as part of their day.  But if you’ve managed to read this far, I would assume that this probably isn’t really an issue for you…

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