The Seattle Weekly

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Stumptown (Capitol Hill)

Dear Mom,

Your insistence during my formative years that "slurping" was absolutely improper and unladylike, and your consistent correction of this habit whenever I was eating soup or trying to get the last of the soda out of a glass has resulted in a serious set-back for my coffee writing career. I hope you're pleased with yourself.

This post is a few days tardy, but last Saturday I attended a "cupping" at Stumptown. Surprisingly enough, in light of how many cuppings are available to attend on a weekly basis, my first. And I'll tell you, it's more difficult than people make it look.

Cupping is quite the process, in which you get the opportunity to evaluate a coffee, smelling the grounds before (dry aroma) and after (wet aroma) they have been saturated with hot water, and eventually - after proceeding through a multiplicity of steps with caution and precision (and people watching you) - tasting the brew. All the rest of the cupping aside, the process for the actual tasting goes like this: you are handed a spoon, which you dip into the coffee until it is about half full. You then slurp the coffee off the spoon into your mouth, consider it while intentionally look thoughtful, then spit it out into a separate cup. And repeat.

Problematically, slurping is a big part of the process. Slurping is supposed to enable you to taste fully, washing a flavor most evenly over your tastebuds while also incorporating the aromatic element of taste. I think this may be partly true, but I also think it is designed to make people who can't slurp look funny when they end up choking. I went to the cupping with my friend Kyle, who I'd forgotten spent some time in Japan where slurping during a meal is considered a compliment to the cook. Consequently, whereas I appear doomed to sip in muted whispers, Kyle has the near-sonic slurp down to an art form. I felt so out of place.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters: 1115 12th Avenue/Seattle
Visit the daily cupping at 3:00 pm.

As ill-suited to the event as I may be, I'll be back because it is an educational event. And because practice makes perfect. And because I never would have tasted coffees from Burundi otherwise... or known where Burundi was, in all likelihood.

Here are my top three "valuable facts" from Saturday's cupping:

1. I like Stumptown's "Burundi Bwayi" pretty well.
2. Burundi is a tiny country, about the sizer of Maryland, landlocked between The Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania.
3. Water in Portland, OR, lacks one specific mineral necessary to create an "ideal" or "perfect" coffee roast. Don't ask me what the mineral is, but coffee roasted in Portland, as a result, usually lacks a subtle element on the flavor scale. This is probably what makes Stumptown:Portland taste different to me from Stumptown:Seattle, and, although I personally prefer Stumptown:Portland, it turns out that Stumptown:Seattle may actually be closer, technically speaking, to "perfect coffee." Interesting.

1 comment:

James T said...

Hey Rose!

I'm glad to see you have put your Tosti writing skills to work, and even more excited to see the subject over which your pros preside.
I currently live in western Colorado, where the legacy of cowboys drinking coffee from their boot isn't too tall a tail. Slowly, people from areas of coffee knowledge have infiltrated the lines of rural Colorado. The sad thing, is that for many, it's still a day job, and not so much a passion. Of course passion doesn't seem to exist in high concentrations around here.

Anyway, I've become you second follower, and may, from time to time, spill my ignorance on your newly pressed blog.

Good to see you here!