5/06/10 5/06/10 Photo Gallery: Cupping Coffee at Starbucks Coffee College May 6, 2010 by Food I Want More! Get our Living newsletter by tapping the button below. Instant Subscribe Getting ready for our "around the world" coffee tasting, in Element, one of several rooms used for cupping. A highly concentrated cup of coffee before its seal has been broken. Starbucks's June Ashley demonstrating how to break the seal. A single origin brew, ready for tasting. I was given a "coffee passport" to help navigate me through the tasting. Each page represented one of Starbucks's many, many single origin coffees and blends from around the world. For educational purposes, we were given sensory references such as cremini mushrooms and herbes de Provence to compare with the coffee's flavor profile. Strawberries and cocoa were the flavor profile for one coffee. One Latin American coffee had prominent freesia, grapefruit, and lemon notes. An Asia-Pacific coffee with caramel-like undertones. At another of our cupping sessions, CEO Howard Schultz popped in to say hello. "Not unlike wine, the more you spend time learning about coffee, the more you realize you don't know," he remarked. In our second cupping session, rather than comparing coffees by origin, we compared them by flavor profiles: Acid and citrus, floral and citrus, earthy, etc., and noted the distinctions. A spoon is used to taste from each cup. In between cups, we rinsed our spoons in hot water. The first step in cupping is to note any prominent aromas. Slurping is highly suggested in order to get as much aroma and flavor as possible — the louder the better! The method: Smell, slurp, spit; dip in water; repeat, all the way down the line. Spittoons for the already-tasted coffee. Fifteen people comprise the Starbucks coffee quality team; together, they taste more than 250,000 cups of coffee a year. Yes, 250,000. The label pictured here is typical at a cupping, and denotes crucial information about each batch, including its origin. The long line of coffees waiting to be tasted by the Starbucks Coffee team. The Starbucks team in action. Considering the sheer volume that must be sampled, palate fatigue is not an option. Tasting is hard work!