Coffee Tasting Workshop, Sept 28
Last week, after many months of receiving the Food Connection newsletter and getting invitations to so many intriguing workshops in my inbox (Dumplings! Honey! Soap-making!), I finally attended my first workshop. The day’s theme did not disappoint: coffee and desserts. Yum...
After a round of introductions, the group, made up of around half Food Connection vets and half newbies like myself, shared a wonderful potluck dinner. Then we got to the informative portion of the evening, as Vania Ling, of Coffee Potluck YVR, got up to talk.
As Vania explained, the Coffee Potluck is made up of enthusiastic coffee-lovers who meet up once a month in different cafes across the city in order to share and discuss all things coffee-related. The evening’s symbiosis between Vania’s group and The Food Connection seemed fitting, as both groups value community and discovery around something as seemingly ordinary as our daily food and drink.
As Vania soon showed us, coffee is anything but mundane: she spoke knowledgeably and passionately about the different parts of the coffee-making process, from the cultivators’ fields to our morning breakfast cup, and about the multitude of things that affect the taste of the final product. She also described a new decaffeination method, called the Swiss Water process, which has been pioneered in a company based right next door in Burnaby.
This was all new information to my table-mates and me, who were all relative newcomers to the colorful and complex world of coffee which Vania gave us a peek of. Though I am a daily coffee drinker, I am by no means a connoisseur, and for the most part my table-mates preferred tea.
This made the next part of the evening particularly novel, as each table learned how to brew our own type of coffee, all from local roasters, and then mingled with the other tables to participate in a coffee tasting.
Here are some of the key things we learned in the process:
Pre-grinding, we compared the coffee beans of the different types of coffee, and learned that they vary a lot in terms of their colour, size, and texture.
Coffee proportions. Thank you, Vania, for making us repeat this -- it’s super useful information! The golden rule is 60g of coffee per 1 litre of water. We used a scale, but you can also estimate around 2 tablespoons of coffee per cup of water when you’re making it at home.
The size of the grind matters: for a french press, you should grind your beans more coarsely than you would for other brewing methods. However, be careful not to leave the grind too coarse, as we did, or you’ll end up with weak coffee.
Coffee taste can vary dramatically, and there are many, many ways of describing the variety of flavours it can have: Vania even showed us a multicoloured flavor wheel, developed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America. Watch out, wine aficionados: coffee lovers can be just as discerning as you.
Decaf coffee doesn’t have to taste bad!
By the end of the evening, we had all sampled and compared several different kinds of coffee. My table-mates and I agreed that we felt quite fancy, sipping coffee out of shot glasses and enjoying some sumptuous desserts.
The workshop was fun and informative. Though it didn’t convert me into a coffee connoisseur, I was inspired by Vania’s great knowledge and enthusiasm, and I enjoyed the opportunity to get a glimpse into the complex world of coffee.