A few cuppings ago with my fellow baristabros we were discussing a fresh Kenya from Lexington and an old Oaxaca from Intelly. Whenever I run cuppings I like to have silence whilst the evaluation of fragrance/aroma and during the cupping itself. After everyone has evaluated the coffees as best they can I go around the table and ask one person at a time to describe one of the 5 categories of smell/taste (I may have posted this before, but it keeps me from having to scroll back!). Each person gets a category to talk about ad nauseam and once they are finished then everyone can talk about the category. At the end, everyone discusses the coffee freely.
One of my baristas said that one of the samples ended with a clean walnut. This is a directed enough description, and one could see it used to describe many coffees, but I got thinking that the words used to describe aftertaste are not only flavor descriptors (we have the flavor category for that after all) but are location/movement descriptors. There is an element of acidity and flavor found in aftertaste indeed, but the idea of movement through flavor descriptors intrigues me. Using flavors/ descriptors that accurately locate the movement of the flavor as it transforms/ leaves the palate presents an interesting challenge for cuppers.
How does a flavor leave? If everyone present at the cupping has the necessary templates for imagining various flavors as movement through the mouth, then the use of the phrase ‘clean walnut’ is wonderfully directive. For myself, it brings to mind a walnut dryness that can move in a lingering fashion off the tongue (perhaps slowly bittering and altogether unpleasant and cloying) or a cleaner dryness that curls at the edge of dry/bitter and fades away. I’d be interested to hear other peoples thoughts on aftertaste in coffee! How do you describe aftertaste?