Our Head Roaster, Roosa, headed to Brazil’s Belo Horizonte to compete in the 2018 World Cup Tasting Championship
In November 2018, I headed to Brazil to compete in the World Cup Tasting Championship in Belo Horizonte. Representing my home country, Finland, where I came 1st in the national competition in 2018, the World Cup Tasting Championship was an eye-opening and unforgettable experience. Getting involved in such a competition may sound strange for the everyday coffee drinker but competitions have been at the forefront of industry development for a long time and those involved seek to challenge themselves, learn more about coffee tasting and meet other likeminded people.
Cupping is an important part of speciality coffee, and is done to observe the taste and aroma of coffees. Cupping is the fun part of the coffee process, where we write down our tasting notes for the coffee. Specialty coffee has a much sharper level of flavour clarity. Rising above the ‘generic coffee taste’, it retains the flavour identity of its origins; from the seed, the soil, and experts responsible for creating it. The best water, brewing equipment and barista skills, as well as a long list of other variables are required to achieve the level of notes found in Kiss the Hippo’s coffee.
Competitors in the Cup Tasters Competition are made to decipher the different tastes of coffees using a specific cupping spoon. Three cups of coffee are placed in a triangle, with two of the coffees being the same and one of them being the “odd one out”. There are 8 triangles in total and the competition has an 8-minute time limit. Applying their sense of smell and taste, as well as accuracy and experience, each competitor tries to identify the odd cup out from the triangle as quickly as possible.
The subtle differences in the coffees used in the Cup Tasters Competition are difficult to detect and make for a nerve-racking experience for competitors. My personal experience was that despite there being a pool of incredibly talented and experienced tasters, the World Cup Tasters Competition was more of a mental game. The right mindset – a calm approach, keeping stress and anxiety at bay – was the winning card. Managing stress is particularly important for coffee tasting as it manifests itself physiologically by drying out the mouth – making it harder to assess the acidity in the coffee. Controlling your nerves is key.
I am proud to say I came 13th in the World Cup Tasters Competition and will certainly be competing again next year. I really value the challenge and self-discipline that comes with competing at this level and thoroughly enjoy meeting other competitors, learning from them and sharing our passion for coffee.