Earlier this year I participated in an online coffee cupping session hosted by Steampunk Coffee. It was marketed as a crash course in coffee cupping because it is quite difficult to replicate the strict standards of cupping at home without the right equipment. Grinding various samples of coffee to a particular degree within a certain period of time is not easy; every cup needs to be the same, and so on. But it is to be expected that online cupping will not be perfect. I signed up to learn a lot about cupping. I learned how things should be done and various ways to do those things at home.
I wish there were more of these online cupping classes. I have seen one online cupping session this year and the World's Largest Coffee Tasting event, hosted by coffee professional James Hoffman. I sadly missed out on this course, having learned about it a few days after the registration date passed.
Cupping is definitely not a skill that every home brewer needs. I have not cupped a coffee since I participated in the online cupping. But I found the event useful and exciting. I got to see other people who were clearly passionate about coffee; otherwise, they would not have signed up. I was told by a professional roaster how to cup and I could see exactly what they were doing. I do like reading but there's no substitute for experimenting in the world of coffee.
I see online cupping classes as a benefit for everyone. For the roaster, they are able to get their brand name out into the world. My online cupping session came with coffees alongside a live class with the head roaster. Other roasters could do this and get a number of their coffees in the hands of the public. A participant may not like one coffee but it's unlikely they will not find at least one that they find enjoyable.
For the consumer, they learn more about coffee. They learn more about how to taste and how coffee is assessed before it is sold by a roaster. More information is a good thing: more informed consumers create more business for a roaster. That consumer may buy more beans, they may participate in future events, they may keep coming to your cafe. It's a win-win.
I know that many cafes offered in-person classes so what I'm proposing is not exactly new. I read that Blue Bottle Coffee used to do quite a few in-house cupping sessions; plenty of other cafes and roasters used to do similar events. But not everyone can access them. If you are not in a city where a speciality roaster hosts a coffee cupping -- and I'll assume most are not hosting cuppings due to COVID right now anyway -- then you are out of luck. You could travel to attend a cupping but that is not the most practical solution. I'd travel for a cupping but I am not sure if the average coffee consumer would.
My cupping class lasted one hour. Well, it actually went on a bit longer because it was the first session and it was clear the edges were being ironed out. I enjoyed the extra time; more value for money. The roaster had over a dozen participants in the same Zoom call and we were all given an opportunity to ask questions about cupping, coffee, and roasting.
There may be more online cupping classes that I'm missing. I would love to see a list of roasters who actively host online cuppings, or any other events for that matter. But I haven't came across many in my research and I do wish there was more, not just for me but for other coffee lovers who want to learn more about their beloved brew and tasting coffee.
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