Earlier this week, I had the unusual opportunity to speak, via Skype video, to a group of budding coffee cuppers in Oaxaca City, Mexico. Gathered around a conference table at the offices of Sustainable Harvest – one of our importer partners – were representatives of the 21st de Septiembre cooperative, the Union of Oaxacan Organic Coffee Producers and Processors (UNOPCAFE) dry mill, and another Oaxacan cooperative named Un Sueño de Tantos. (Un Sueño de Tantos translates as A Dream of Many, which is a fantastic name for a cooperative, if you ask me.) These farmers journeyed to Oaxaca City from around the region to participate in a cupping training, and, after we had all made our introductions and waved at our respective cameras, Clemente Santiago of Sustainable Harvest asked if I would speak to the group about what cupping means to us at Counter Culture Coffee.
I jumped at the chance, of course. I explained that we cup coffee every day. We cup every coffee that we purchase multiple times before we make the decision to purchase it. We cup with coffee growers, and we cup with coffee consumers so that we all learn to taste coffee the same way. As farmers and cuppers, they have the unique ability to connect the flavors of their coffee that result from their work in growing, harvesting, and processing coffees: any trained cupper can recognize the flavors that result from on-farm problems like picking under-ripe cherries, over-fermentation, and improper drying, but without the farmer, none of us can affect the changes necessary to fix such problems. Cupping skills will also empower them in negotiation, as they will have the language of taste in common with the buyers of their coffee.
In some ways, I was preaching to the choir – all of these folks had already made the decision to come to the week-long training. That said, the heads nodding around the table as I spoke reminded me that we can't emphasize cupping too much! The 21st has talked about cupping, a prerequisite for microlot selection, for the past two years, but other projects have taken precedence. I am so happy and proud that they've taken that commitment a step further this year!