cup everything

So, I’ve been Preparing for the North East Regional Barista Competition (NERBC), which is getting supaclose. Lately, this means trying to get a recipe down for my signature beverage. I know basically what I want to do, but it’s still a matter of picking the right ingredients.

So I decided to do some ‘cuppings’ of various ingredients. And it. has been. awesome.

orange tasting

For me, the most exciting of these was a tasting of different orange varieties. I knew nothing about different oranges before starting this. In fact, I didn’t really know you could get so many different types of oranges in a regular ol’ supermarket. So when I went shopping for ingredients and realized the extent of my options, I knew I had to set up a tasting.1 It ended up looking like this:

Then this:


Then this:


And finally this:


I decided to take down some notes. I’m in a habit of making spreadsheets for everything since I started gathering data while trying to set a brew recipe with the limited amount of competition coffee I have. I was amazed at how totally different all of the oranges were. The peels of the mandarin oranges smelled like tomato vines, very strange. In case you want to see how I did this or make fun of me for my tasting notes or whatever, here’s my spreadsheet:


I think i’m going with the Moro, a type of blood orange. The orange candy smell of the peel was pretty irresistible, and it totally looked nice enough to use for an orange twist. The fruit itself was way on the sour side, almost lime-like, not in an unpleasant way. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to taste like that, but I think I may only be using the peel anyway, so whateva.

other tastings

I also have done some experiments with different methods of icing tea (earl grey, in this case) brewed at various brew ratios. I think I may experiment more with this and write up the results on the other blog I write for – which is about beverages in general, not just coffee – when the weather gets nicer.

Finally, we did an experiment mixing espresso (Counter Culture’s Baroida SOE) with melted purple fla-vor-ice, which may or may not be a sig bev ingredient for my girlfriend / fellow NERBC competitor, Daria Whalen. Here’s Calen Robinette (another Boston NERBC competitor, repping Voltage) trying that out:



The moral of the story is cup everything. It’s fascinating, and you will learn so much. If you don’t cup coffee regularly, start now; It builds skill, confidence, and I’m convinced it’s made me significantly more physically attractive. If you already do regular coffee cuppings, start cupping everything else: beer, wine, tea, produce, chocolate, bread, whiskey, whisky, whatevercetera. Cup everything.

  1. I had heard about a similar Counter Culture apple tasting, and I’ve heard tell of other coffee people doing fruit tastings as a regular part of bar training, though I can’t find the sources or remember who….

About barnwolf

head barista for pavement coffeehouse and erc boston
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4 Responses to cup everything

  1. Calen Robinette says:

    Chocolates, milk, different ratios and recipes, separated coffee varietals, water(!)…

    Tasting everything critically and comparing is hugely important and usually what I try to instill first in prospective baristas/coffee consumers.

    • barnwolf says:

      Right on! I’m gonna write up that quaker cupping you suggested even tho I executed it poorly and it was gross and somewhat inconclusive….

  2. elle says:

    this was supainteresting, to adopt your word hybrid. it makes so much sense now that you’ve got me thinking about it, but i never would have thought to compare the tastes of different varieties of fruits or vegetables. i’m sure doing this with anything makes your palate more sensitive, or makes flavors more attainable and recognizable. good stuff.

    • barnwolf says:

      Thanks for the comment, Elle! Maybe we should put together a Pavement fruit tasting! Or seek out some coffees to cup that are from one farm, but different botanical varieties (like the different varieties of oranges).

      I see some fun cuppings in our future….

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