I’ve started drinking a floral coffee, Bale Mountain from Steampunk. I wrote in my review that I do not have a wide palate when it comes to floral notes. This is down to my relative inexperience with floral notes in comparison to other flavours, such as cherry, blueberry, and chocolate. I have avoided some coffees described similar to teas and plants because I do not have many points of comparison.
It was no surprise that I was unable to pick out some of the flavour notes on the coffee I’ve been drinking. I cannot pick out “honeysuckle” because I do not have a good idea of what honeysuckle is in my mind. I may have experience with the aroma of honeysuckle but I cannot specifically remember honeysuckle. How is it possible for me to describe the coffee as honeysuckle? It isn’t, and that is just the point.
As I started to drink the coffee, I reminded myself of a rule that I feel I need to keep reminding myself exists: coffee flavours are incredibly complex and it is unlikely that I will get the same impression of a coffee as someone else. I have been good at tasting the flavour notes on coffees I’ve had in the past but I’ve seldom been able to pick out every flavour note listed on a packet.
I feel like I have avoided many good coffees because I do not have experience with their flavour notes. Bale Mountain attracted me with its forest fruit notes and the coffee has opened me up to a whole new world of flavours. Maybe it is about time I start to drink more coffees with floral notes. I will run into issues because of my inexperience with floral notes but that is expected. I can only learn through practice.
An alternative is for me to go and seek out the “real” versions of the flavours in a coffee, something that I think I’ll find myself naturally doing over time. I do not have the inclination to seek out honeysuckle so I can see whether it is present in Bale Mountain, but I do know that I’m often trying new flavours and building up a bank of these in my mind.
Indeed, flavours are complex. The method used to prepare a method affects the taste of the resultant brew. I found stirring my Aeropress seven more times than usual – for a total of ten times instead of three – had a clear and noticeable impact on the final coffee. So how you brew your coffee will affect what flavours you taste. And how a roaster brews their coffee – whether they use cupping to determine samples, what water they use, how long they leave their coffee to rest before trying – will impact how they taste the coffee. Flavour notes are one impression of a coffee, not a list of rules on what you should taste.
This point was driven home when I let other members of my household smell a cup of Bale Mountain. Everyone got a different impression of the coffee; someone said they smelled “honey” and “tea,” two aromatic notes I was unable to discern in the coffee, even after someone had suggested them. I guess this post is me trying as hard as I can to remember that I cannot taste every flavour in the world and that tasting coffee is not a competition to see how many flavours I can pick up on from the tasting notes.