The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping – As the coffee culture moves closer to the business model of the wine industry, Cupping has become the most universal and standard method of rating and scoring.

For roasters, Cupping is an effective way to ensure maintaining or finding a consistent roast profile for any coffee. For quality control professionals, Cupping helps ensure their products taste great consistently, without any potential defects.

For the barista, Cupping is an effective method of expanding the palate, getting acquainted with a variety of coffees from many different origins, or even competing on multiple levels for the title of champion in tournament competition.

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping: Illustrated by

The introduction of Cupping has solved many problems for the coffee industry in general and speciality coffee in particular, but have you ever really questioned that “Cupping” has appeared in the coffee industry.

When? Who initiated this process? and what are their purposes?.

The “father” of “cup-test” coffee

For more than 400 years, coffee tasting (at the time when people didn’t call it “Cupping”) was an informal art, passed down by word of mouth for generations. It is a skill set adopted by large roasters, importers and exporters.

It is considered a very specialized skill that takes years of training to acquire and belongs to a select few individuals.

Until 1984, there was no printed text on the concept of “cupping coffee” other than general descriptions of a tasting procedure called “cup test” (or “cup-testing”) that William H. Ukers mentioned in his classic work – All About Coffee, first published in 1922.

It was only in 1984 that the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) published the first edition of The Coffee Cupper’s Handbook, written by Ted R. Lingle.

In All About Coffee, author William H. Ukers mentioned the “cup test”, where we have to weigh an amount of coffee accurately, grind it into a cup, pour boiling water in and after 4-5 minutes, taste the coffee with a large spoon. This technique was first practised by Clarence E. Bickford, a coffee broker working for the Rodolfo Hochhofler coffee house (later renamed CE Bickford & Co in 1908) in San Francisco in the mid-1908s -1890 in San Francisco. This process led to a revolution in the coffee business. It has been found that some coffees are considered poor quality due to their small size – for example, coffee in the highlands of Guatemala tastes better than some large beans. As a result, Bickford has been recognized both for the discovery of high-quality Central American coffee,

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
CE Bickford (right) and cupping table set from circa 19th century

In general, coffee quality was judged on appearance only until the late 19th century. Particle size, provenance, and sample errors, which to some of us, in 2022 may sound paradoxical. Everything changed when a San Francisco coffee trader named Clarence E. Bickford developed a systematic method for “trying the cup” of coffee.

SCA Coffee Sensory and Cupping Handbook, 2021

This is why everyone in the value chain, from roasters, importers in consuming countries and exporters in producing countries, “tastes” coffee. Traditionally, the only people in the value chain who haven’t tasted coffee have been small producers.

However, today, the coffee tasting process has extended to Arabica and Robusta coffees. It is popularized not only by the Specialty Coffee Association but also by organizations, roasters and research laboratories, training centres, and testing centres everywhere.

So now farmers, small coffee producers, or just about anyone have the opportunity to understand their coffee flavour characteristics, the steps to take to improve product quality and understand more clearly the requirements of the market, which are dynamically changing from time to time.

From “cup-testing” to “Cupping”

But the cupping technique didn’t get widespread until the Specialty Coffee movement of the 1960s and 1970s demonstrated that consumers would only pay more for higher quality coffee.

At this point, the sensory assessment of the coffee is done – not by anyone other than traders and green roasters.

But the first achievement was born in 1984 (or 1985) when Ted R. Lingle – Founder and President of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), wrote the book Coffee Cupper’s Handbook ( download here ) to explain the science and chemistry behind the techniques used in coffee tasting.

This is the first training document to systematize the method of tasting practice so that everyone can learn the skills needed for Cupping.

This led to a second major revolution in the sensory analysis of coffee: Emphasizing the idea that coffee tasting is a technique that anyone can practice and learn but must be systematic and rigorous.

In this work, Ted R. Lingle began to integrate insights from the burgeoning field of sensory science, referencing the publications of Rose Marie Pangborn to introduce a “proto-lexicon” (flavour dictionary) for coffee, with about 150 coffee flavour terms – this is the forerunner of the Coffee Sensory Lexicon, which the World Coffee Research ( WCR ) organization published in 2015.

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
Cupping provides an invaluable opportunity to communicate with supply chain partners – farmers and collectors just like roasters and baristas, which can complete a feedback loop that leads to quality. and better value | Photo: cafe imports

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
But Cupping isn’t just about playing a role in purchasing decisions and quality control: it can also be used to qualitatively describe products, discover flavour differences in production, or train and compete. /auction and more. Photo: cafe imports

By the 1920s, “cup-test” had become an integral part of the coffee trade, through which a rich vocabulary of sensory descriptions was introduced into the business.

Some of these terms have become essential concepts in the sensory analysis of coffee, such as body, acidy, sour, bitter, etc.

Besides, some descriptive attributes have been put into use and are popular variables to this day, such as acidy, sour, muddy, grassy, ​​woody, smooth, etc… some others are almost no longer found in modern tasting languages ​​like harsh, neutral, irony, winy, rank.

During this period, the “cup test” was included in the official coffee grading requirements of the Coffee, Sugar and Cocoa Exchange (CSCE).

This exchange has developed into the essential “Commodity Coffee Market” (English: “Commodity Coffee Market” or C-Market) classification system of the International Commodity Exchange.

This coffee claims to be “in good condition, without rancid, stale flavour”. Those who perform the “cup test” are called “cuppers”, and the coffee tasting is hereafter called “cupping”.

History Of Coffee Cupping: Cupping in the Age of Standardization

Playing an essential role in “popularizing” the cupping technique in the coffee industry is Paul Katzeff – the head of Thanksgiving Coffee (there is an interview about Paul for your reference), one of the founding members. and former president of the SCAA.

In 2001 Paul Katzeff published the book “he Coffee CCupper’sManifesto “a document aimed at helping coffee farmers learn the techniques of sensory analysis and scoring so that they have more strength and control of the market during a period of historically low coffee prices.

The idea that sensory analysis of coffee (through tasting) could be a more popular and empowering language for the coffee market than a simple qualitative analysis technique has become a significant reason in favour of comprehensive sensory training throughout the coffee industry.

Around this time, George Howell invented a new sensory scoring system for coffee, which began to be used for a coffee competition called the “p of Excellence “.

Today, this is a famous competition in the speciality coffee industry to find great coffees and bring economic value to farmers through auctions around the world.

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
In 1999, Cupping was used at Cup of Excellence competitions, which led to the Specialty Coffee Association of America (now the Specialty Coffee Association, SCA) creating technical guidelines that the international speciality community has widely accepted.

Also, in 2001, Ted R. Lingle and collaborators developed a new tasting standard and grading form for the SCAA.

This led to the development of a program to educate and test the skills of coffee sorters and tasters, first at the SCAA and then at a non-profit organization the SCAA founded called the Institute. Coffee Quality – Coffee Quality Institute, abbreviated as CQI.

CQCQI’sertification program, called the “Q” Grader” “program, aims to train coffee experts to SCAA standards.

Through this program, thousands of tasters were taught cupping standards and the SCSCAA’s00-point scoring system, thereby realizing the aspiration to turn cupping practice into a coffee sensory evaluation technique. Global.

Cupping began to make sense for specialty coffees when it emerged as a method used to evaluate coffee in the Cup of Excellence competition in 1999. Soon after, the SCAA developed a set of standards. industry for cupping and used to date by the specialty coffee community.

The popularity of Cupping in the Specialty Coffee market

For more than a century, Cupping has been a method of systematically assessing the odour and taste characteristics of a sample of coffee beans – or simply “t”ste” “the coffee.

This method includes the prescribed dilution and a series of complete sensory evaluation instructions using the asassessor’slfactory, taste, and oral sensations.

Because Cupping is often associated with an economic purpose, such as purchasing decisions, bidding prices, choosing a large-scale production process, etc., those who perform it need to follow the procedures and techniques strictly has been established.

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
While Cupping was initially done to ensure the coffee was free from defects, the “speciality coffee” “ndustry has adopted this technique to help describe coffee flavours.

Therefore, cupping can be viewed as a technique designed for the unique needs of the “green” or unroasted coffee trade.

A quick and convenient way to enjoy coffee, recognize its sensory and physical attributes, and use that information to drive purchasing decisions.

Through the media, cupping knowledge has accumulated over time, some of which have been standardized and highly symbolic – as a display of quality rather than in response to actual evaluation needs.

Even so, the core foundation of the cupping process, in any case, is constant. It’s about making a simple, fast and accurate assessment of a green coffee.

Today, we can see a lot of variations and instructions related to the cupping process – like the “cupping protocol” set of SCA ( SCA Cupping Protocol ) because it is quite popular, and easy to accept with the coffee community specialty coffee, there are many courses to help you pursue this set of standards.

But at the same time, there are still many other sets of standards like BH Cupping Protocolsby Barista Hustle. However, keep in mind that cupping is always a flexible process and when done at home it is as enjoyable as the taste of the coffee itself.

Experts may consider it a scientific process (not wrong), but we as enthusiasts can also participate in this “ritual” and the most important thing is that there is no honest answer right or wrong! The standards were created to make it possible for anyone to become an expert.

If you’re not cupping in a systematic way, chances are you won’t realize the true potential of coffee. That’s where a cupping protocol can come in handy, allowing you to be sure of consistency, just like the SCA protocol.

Cupping from a “heretic” point of view

Usually, cupping means having to follow a certain standardized process, a process that is quite complicated and can be a bit ambiguous for newbies.

This makes cupping sometimes seen as mysterious, extremely difficult, or even unconvincing. There are many downsides besides the orthodox side of cupping, it’s simply a systematic way to enjoy coffee.

Although we sometimes see cupping done as education, or as an advertisement, at its core, first and foremost, it is still a way of “classifying” coffee.

In recent years, this has changed: Cupping is increasingly becoming a more inclusive method, and many companies have invested in cupping rooms for more people across the organization.

As long as the participants are properly trained, Cupping is a good practice: It spreads the understanding of coffee throughout the organization and diversifies the pool of professionals available.

The Development And History Of Coffee Cupping - Helena Coffee Vietnam
“Cupping is just one of many ways to enjoy coffee, but it is a very effective way to enjoy many different types of coffee side by side” C”is Kornman, The Crown: Royal Coffee Lab & Tasting Room

One problem that exists at any given time is that there are well-trained coffee experts who are sometimes believed to have the ability to sense exceptional coffee accurately or so-called ” golden tongue”, tasters (we don’t want to use the term “cupper” at this point) are sometimes treated with more respect on issues related to coffee quality.

Although, certainly some people are more accurate than others, this is not due to any innate or superior taste. As long as tasters have a working taste and smell, the difference in ability between experts generally comes down to experience, training, and practice (we’ve proven this in our book Science sensory studies)..

To be a coffee sensory expert, or a cupper, is to enter a “hurdle race” – the barricade of professional protectionism, where the expert’s reputation stands for smell and taste. theirs more than the average person.

Sensory Science, 2022

However, what we want to emphasize, is not the difference in taste skills of an individual, expert, but the process of learning, practicing and calibrating to reach a common threshold of perception, achievable by most of us.

Nowadays, learning is no longer a real barrier for a professional cupper. You can access many courses, cupping events, competitions, etc., thereby, hone the knowledge and practical skills to master the cupping technique step by step.

Although it takes some time to reach a general consensus (so you can give the same score as everyone else). We recommend taking the Advanced Cupping Course or the Coffee Grading Course to start your career in the coffee industry.


  • Primecoffea, Sự phát triển và lịch sử của việc Cupping cà phê, Tháng bảy 15, 2022


Helena Coffee Vietnam

Helena Coffee Processing & Export in Vietnam | Helena., JSC, which was established in 2016, is a Vietnamese coffee exporter, manufacturer & supplier. We provide the most prevalent varieties of coffee grown in Vietnam’s renowned producing regions.

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