I've had a lot of people over the past few years ask me how is it that I can taste the notes of berry or the hint of chocolate or what have you in the coffee that I'm drinking. I figured I should take the time to explain it to you all.
First and foremost, I've drank A LOT of coffees in my life time, and over the past three years I've had on average 4 cups of coffee a day, which equates to (the accountant in me couldn't help it) just over 4,300 cups of coffee in three years. Lets say that half of those are me drinking the same coffee multiple times (I don't really think it's half but let's just go with it for simplicity's sake) so we're looking at approximately 2,150 different coffees that I've tried over the past three years. Over that time and over the plethora of coffee that I've had, I've been able to only subtly tell the difference in some flavors, notes, and hints.
As mentioned in an article prior, I drink my coffee black, and one of the major reasons I do that is because that way I can tell the difference between a good coffee and a bad coffee. If you don't know what differentiates a good coffee from a bad one, read my definition here.
So once I have a good coffee in hand it's a lot easier to taste the flavor profile. Some roasts are super defined and others take more sips to be able to tell. I've had a coffee from Monogram coffee for instance that the second you pour the coffee you are punched in the face with an aroma of blueberry and while tasting you can clearly tell there's blueberry and an undertone of vanilla, but it's not always so obvious. There are other times it takes a few sips to get the exact flavor, and honestly sometimes I'll taste things that are close but not exactly what the roaster tastes, and that's ok because everyone's taste buds are different.
It's just all about focusing on what you're tasting, so if the first thing I taste is strawberry for instance but it's a sweeter taste I'll assume it's a strawberry jam flavor rather than just strawberry. After a second if the flavor changes you know there's a tone of something different, and same with the aftertaste. If the aftertaste is different than the flavor change then you know there is an undertone of something different.
I'm not going to sit here and tell you I'm an expert, because I'm not. There are some people that have spent decades perfecting their palate. Personally, I've only been doing this for a few years and only part time because I still have a full time accounting job I have to do (I have to do it but never said I'm good at that either haha). I hope one day I can be a master coffee taster but for now I just practice and try to learn from the experts I've met like Grady from JJ bean or Brian from Milano Roasters.
If there is one piece of advice I can give its to try different coffees and not to get bogged down with your "favorite" coffee because in your coffee journey you can find a bunch of favorites and you'll get to experience different amazing coffees from around the world and that's what it's all about right? Connecting the coffee community around the world.
So there you have it. That's my two cents on how I taste the notes in coffee. If there's something else you want to know about comment below.