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A matter of taste

From the November 2015 issue.

A new coffee Lexicon developed by World Coffee Research is set to make tasting notes a more precise science.

For many people within and outside the industry, coffee tasting can appear to be more art than science. Where one taster might detect hints of plum, another could swear they are getting notes of blueberry. But where does the truth lie?

A new project by World Coffee Research (WCR) is aiming to liberate the tasting process of such confusion, replacing it with a precise catalogue of objectively assessable attributes that will make tasting notes more consistent and replicable for scientists studying coffee quality.

The WCR Coffee Lexicon is the culmination of more than a year’s work by a group of sensory scientists, led by Edward Chambers from Kansas State University, to compile a vocabulary of sensory attributes that can be used to study how changes in coffee genetics, terroir, processing, and roasting affect coffee quality—with potential repercussions for the way the entire coffee industry describes flavour.

According to WCR’s Director of Communications, Hanna Neuschwander, the new Lexicon is not an exercise in reinventing the wheel (though it will inform the development of the new Specialty Coffee Association of America’s flavour wheel), but is about refining the language that is already out there and making sure its use is consistent.

“The thing that really differentiates the Lexicon from the other tools out there is that, for each of the 108 attributes, there’s a definition and then there’s a reference, or multiple references for each attribute,” Neuschwander tells GCR Magazine.

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