Calibrating the Palate

Coffee roasting requires the same skill set as the rest of the culinary arts. Essential preparation is the development of the palate of both the roaster and the customer. The roaster balances in constant tension what the trendy say is tasty, the roaster's own tastes, and the largely acquired tastes of the customer. For example, we purchased a pound of Sumatra Mandailing from a small roaster out-of-town. We observed and dialogued with the roaster. Most importantly we tasted the roast in a variety of applications and brewing methods. This process helps recalibrate the palate of the roaster and recognizes that tastes do vary. We found the darker-than-our-preference roast to compliment the mineral character of the Sumatra beans. Any lingering fruit and sweetness took a backseat to the rich body this roast brought. However, the particular flavors of the origin were masked. Lingering on the back end was a carbonized bitterness that we don't favor. Next we compared the Sumatra to our roast of Sweet Maria's Espresso Monkey blend, the burnt bitterness is gone; a sweetness and nuttiness are brought forward. Blends offer a complexity not expected from a typical single origin roast. The EM was roasted to Full City or maybe Vienna and far short of the French/Italian roast of the Sumatra. And based on our tasting notes, our recent Sumatra offering roasted short of Vienna had a malted chocolate character than was absent in the darker roast. There, you have it: brief insights in development of a tasting palate that can both distinguish and appreciate the myriad of coffee possibilities.
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