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I went to a Cupping

On Thursday evening I went to my first Cupping. This is wine-tasting for coffee-lovers.

We gathered in the very cool offices of a local web company, a table set with boxes of with samples of some newly roasted coffees, bowls and spoons, with seven of us gathered for a couple of caffeine tasting hours.

We tried out five coffee roasted by Dave Stanton of Crankhouse Coffee. Dave is a friend of a friend, who runs his own roasting business. We buy our church coffee from him because it's good coffee, and because as people who love our city we choose to support a local entrepreneurs and culture makers.

We began by looking at the beans and seeing the difference in appearance between washed and unwashed beans. They were ground and we took in the different aromas. And then we added water and waited for four minutes. We took in the aromas again before slurping from our spoons and looking for the different smoothness, acidity, and flavours.

Dave presented us with Kenya Kainamui AA, Kenya Kiambara AB, Ethiopia Biftu Gudina, Guatemala Finca El Rincon and Brazil Sertaozinho Yellow Bourbon PN. I hope to buy some before we move.

My initial reaction is that I can tell that there is a difference, and I can discern which will be the most expensive ones. My palate struggles to identify what I'm tasting but I'd like to refine and develop the ability to identify tastes more clearly. It takes great attentiveness, care and commitment for Dave to roast his beans rightly, so too for me to appreciate their quality.

This complex chemistry, shaped by soil quality, altitude, weather, processes of washing and roasting and brewing, time and temperature, does something to us. What is that?

The following evening I went to an open air concert at my wife's school. Warm evening sun and the combined skill of dozens of people playing instruments crafted by many others. My wife conducts one of the choirs, and what she can draw out of the human voice wows me, as do the sparks of her facial expression and her dance moves. As with coffee I can instinctively and generally appreciate the quality of good music as opposed to a dischordant performance, but just as it takes skill and time to compose and play well, so too I'm drawn to learn more to appreciate its nuances and detail.

The concert showcased a completely different aspect of the cultivation of this world by people. Just as there are deep and rich tastes contained within coffee beans, so there are the rhythms and melodies of orchestras, choirs and bands. In both cases the effects are sensory, emotional and physical on the participant, whether drinking or listening.
'Culture is what human beings make of this world - both in terms of the things we make from this world, and the meaning we draw from our engagement with it. Culture is the fruit of the human quest for meaning in the world.' Andy Crouch
Human beings are culture-makers. From chaos, humanity creates culture. The fingerprints of humanity on this world are intruiging, fascinating, imagination-filling. The forming of the formless, the filling of the emptiness brings out rich colours and tastes and sounds. And stopping to enjoy these does something to the soul that it's hard capture in words. Why is that?


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