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Flavour - Specialty Coffee

Any discussion around specialty coffee cannot happen without flavour. And in my experience, flavour is one of the most misunderstood concepts, especially when one is starting off on the discovery of coffee. And why not, for we love in the era of hazelnut pistachio frappuccinos and pumpkin spiced lattes topped with almond cream. In this article, we demystify the basics of coffee flavour, and its role in the specialty coffee arena.



To understand flavour, we first need to understand taste. What we feel through our tongue, our taste-buds is called taste. Salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami are the five basic tastes. Flavour is related to our olfactory sense. So when we say strawberry, cherry, chocolate, raisins, these are flavours, not tastes. To put things into perspective, the taste of a mango can be sweet or sour but what makes mango feel like mango is the flavour. So when a candy or sorbet reminds you of mango, it's the flavour you are talking about, not the taste.


In terms of specialty coffee, flavour is something similar. Put it simply, what does a sip of coffee (without any other additives) remind you of. Every combination of coffee bean origin, roast profile, and brew method will unlock different set of flavours. Once you start exploring coffee beyond its bitter, sometimes slightly tangy/sweet taste, you will be reminded of something: raisins, orange, peaches, chocolate, prunes, lime, etc. This is naturally occurring. The Specialty Coffee Association has come up with a

to help identify the flavour notes in a coffee.


So the next time you read or hear that a particular coffee has certain flavour notes, know that it's the olfactory experience which is being described; not “flavoured coffee”. Hopefully this helps clarify the difference between a coffee with flavour notes of hazelnut and a hazelnut flavoured coffee.


Stay tuned to this blog for more things specialty coffee.

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