Coffee is more than just a drink, it’s an experience. Simply put, tasting notes describe the aroma, taste and character of coffee. Once you understand the language of coffee, you can better appreciate the flavors from each roast and choose the ones that are best suited to your taste.
Let’s start off with defining what taste, aroma and flavor are before we dive into coffee tasting notes.
Taste is the sensory experience felt by the tongue. This allows you to sense whether something is salty, sweet, savory, or sour.
Aroma utilizes your sense of smell, allowing you to differentiate between different flavors. The aroma is a key component in a flavor profile.
Flavor is a range of different sensations, combining both taste and aroma.
Tasting notes act as reference points, giving us key descriptors about the taste, aroma and flavor that help guide us towards coffees we like. Typically, you will notice 3 descriptive words on your coffee boxes - two being flavor notes and the last one being a character note. Character notes will describe the overall personality of coffee based on the acidity, body and flavor.
Coffee flavors are based on where they’re grown along with the way they’re processed and roasted. Depending on the region and altitude, coffee can range from nutty and chocolatey to sweet and mellow. Higher altitudes generally grow coffee beans much slower however, this gives the opportunity to develop more rich and complex flavors. Some coffee beans are more dense and do require higher roasting temperatures to achieve its optimal flavor. When it comes to understanding tasting notes, understanding the origin of the coffee goes a long way.
All good things have an origin story. The foundation in which coffee beans are grown gives it the distinct tastes you love. Everything from the quality of the soil and water processing methods, to the temperatures and overall climate affects the taste of your coffee. Knowing the location of where your coffee was grown will help you to understand and experience your coffee differently.
The infamous Colombian coffee is one of the highest-selling coffees in the world, and for good reason. Filled with thousands of miles of beautiful mountain ranges, humid climate and steep elevation, it is the perfect setting to grow robust Arabica coffee. Harvest season for farmers in Colombia is typically between March and June, and then again between September and December. Colombia’s close proximity to the equator as well as high altitudes gives the soil more nutrients than more regions. Coffee beans roasted from this region result in medium-bodied, higher acidity coffees.
Coffee roasting is the process of heating raw coffee cherry seeds to alter its aroma and flavor to create the distinct coffees we know as light, medium and dark roast. This process plays one of the most important roles in flavor. Light roasted coffee is typically placed in lower temperatures and/or placed in for a shorter duration typically resulting in very bright acidity and flavorful coffee. Medium roasts have a rich brown color in the coffee bean for having a longer roasting time. Their flavor tends to be stronger, with more sweetness and the acidity is not as apparent. Darker roast coffees range from dark brown to blackened colors. The coffee beans lose moisture as they are roasted for much longer and at higher temperatures, giving it an oily surface, a fuller body and bolder taste.