Latest Posts

  1. POSTPONED - Online Event - Sensory Series 101 - March 18th

    POSTPONED - Online Event - Sensory Series 101 - March 18th

    Join us online and compare coffee flavors to familiar foods and drinks

    Read More
  2. Roasting Fundamentals: Getting Started with Decaf Coffee

    Roasting Fundamentals: Getting Started with Decaf Coffee

    Tricky to roast but better tasting than ever.

    Read More
  3. Roast Level Chart: Download our Card

    Roast Level Chart: Download our Card

    Check your next order for this informative postcard or download it here.

    Read More
  4. Ethiopia Organic Dry Process Two Ways: Regular vs. Decaf

    Ethiopia Organic Dry Process Two Ways: Regular vs. Decaf

    An amazing dry process Ethiopia now available as both regular and decaf.

    Read More
  5. Quakers and Taste - 2020 Sensory Summit

    Quakers and Taste - 2020 Sensory Summit

    Read More
  6. Sweet Maria's Staff Picks: Featuring Ryan

    Sweet Maria's Staff Picks: Featuring Ryan

    ...because we have our favorites too.

    Read More
  7. Blends: Limited Edition Holiday Blend Returns

    Blends: Limited Edition Holiday Blend Returns

    Check out our brew assessment of our limited edition Polar Expresso Holiday Blend. Made up of all washed African coffees, how could you go wrong?

    Read More
  8. Ethiopiques Returns

    Ethiopiques Returns

    Along with the slew of incoming fresh Ethiopian coffee comes the return of our always popular Ethiopiques blend.

    Read More
  9. Ethiopias, Cold Brewed with a Bruer.

    Ethiopias, Cold Brewed with a Bruer.

    Cold brew coffee can have more tastes than just caramel and chocolate.

    Read More
  10. Burundi + Rwanda Coffee Tasting

    Burundi + Rwanda Coffee Tasting

    Another great event at our warehouse on 9/27

    Read More
  11. Video: Coffee Leaf Tea - ቁጢ , Kuti, Keti, Koti

    Video: Coffee Leaf Tea - ቁጢ , Kuti, Keti, Koti

    Brewing coffee leaf tea

    Read More
  12. All About Coffee Brewing

    All About Coffee Brewing

    Sign up for our coffee brewing crash course

    Read More

There's No Accounting for Taste

There's No Accounting for Taste

This has been a very challenging week for cupping. Why? I can't taste.

It all started on December 21st when we were flying to my sisters house in Tucson for Christmas. Ben turned to me on the airplane and sneezed directly
into my gaping mouth. (I wonder if you can buy those full face shields the dentists use these days, for protection when your kid is sick. It's just a
given he is going to sneeze directly on me at some point).

I have had better days and worse days since then, but what I am left with now is a sinus and olfactory as clogged as a storm drain after a hurricane. You don't notice at first. You eat chicken broth with rice and cereal, all the fun sick-person food, but you don't notice whats not there. I had some Earl Grey tea and thought it must have been a bad brand; no bergamot notes came through. But that was my only hint.

First day back on the cupping table and I knew for sure how my senses were lost in a deep fog. I couldn't get anything, I mean ANYTHING from the dry fragrance of the coffee grinds. They might not have been there, and I wouldn't know. Sometimes when I feel smell-challenged, I put my face down into the steam as I pour hot water into the cups. But that didn't penetrate the nasal barricade either. My other trick is to open and close my mouth rapidly as I smell to try to pull something into my olfactory retro-nasally, through the opening in the pack of the palate. Nothing. Zilch. My senses were 100% MIA.

I know this is all fascinating, and you want to know all about my illness (haha). But the point I wanted to get to is how remarkable taste is in the context of having no taste. I spend so much time fussing over the details of coffee, whether an acidity is citric or tartaric, or if red fruits are more apple or berry-like. But it's only under the brutal condition of total taste failure, not even being able to sense if there is a cup of coffee placed in front of you or not (without seeing it of course) that taste seems to matter more than ever.

But what fascinated me is this: What remains when taste is absent? Or perhaps, what remains when the olfactory is totally offline. The fact is, the taste receptors (papillae) on my tongue weren't really firing either. I could get the sourness of acidity, some sense of the bittering coffee alkaloid notes, but not sweetness or other aspects of taste (salt, umami). What was odd was the physical reactions I could gauge, texture specifically. Each acidity seemed remarkably different in texture, even though I couldn't get the taste clearly.

What the tongue contributes to taste has been largely misunderstood since the turn of the century when a poorly translated paper from the original German text inferred that taste receptivity on the tongue could be mapped, and certain zones on the tongue were more sensitive to certain types of basic taste. A 2006 paper published in Nature debunked the "tongue map" myth: "Recent molecular and functional data have revealed that, contrary to popular belief, there is no tongue 'map': responsiveness to the five basic modalities.