Winning Hearts and Minds (And Palates)

Yesterday I gave a three and a half hour presentation and hands-on lab to a couple of classes at the Art Institute of Washington in Arlington. Talk about fun and rewarding!  Here is a group of people with trained palates, or palates in training, who not only enjoyed the coffee, but were also very interested in the process and getting it right.

For me it was doubly beneficial because it was my opportunity to attack the known problem of crummy restaurant and hotel coffee by educating the culinary professionals early in their careers about what great coffee can should be.

One of the highlights for me was when one student told a visiting instructor to try the El Salvador Orange Bourbon because it changed his life. That’s awesome to see people get excited about your coffee in such a way!

Another highlight was after a filter demonstration juxtaposing a French press with a Chemex.  One of the instructors, a near daily user of the French press, realized he really enjoyed a clean, juicy cup of coffee over a heavy-bodied coffee because the filtered coffees have more clarity and nuanced flavors.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bad-mouthing the French press.  However, I select and roast green coffees based on the fact that they’ll really shine when heavily filtered as in a pour-over method, especially the Chemex.  A light, juicy body allows the unique flavors to come to the front rather than be subdued by a heavy body and that was readily observed when the class first tasted a coffee brewed in the French press then immediately tasted the same coffee brewed in a Chemex.

A basic run-down of the presentation:

  1. Broad overview of coffee from seed to cup.
  2. Very brief overview of the book Neurogastronomy
  3. Brewing techniques
  4. Tasting lab: 3 coffee regions, 3 processing methods, 3 unique flavor profiles

I had a great time and I’m very happy to have met people so excited about coffee and food in general!

Michael C. Wright

Michael is a licensed Q Grader, licensed Q Processor Pro, an Authorized SCA Trainer (AST), and most recently, a graduate with a degree in horticulture and a concentration in horticultural business management. He has over ten years experience in the coffee industry operating on both the supply and demand sides of the value chain.