Tasting Vocabulary : Taints, Defects, and Characteristics

How the fruit is removed from the coffee beans and how they are dried dramatically affects how the coffee finally tastes in the cup. Among professionals and aficionados there are two schools of thinking (or tasting) in regard to how fruit removal and drying should affect coffee flavor.

Clean Cuppers. One school, whom I call clean-cuppers, feels that fruit removal and drying should not affect taste in any way, and should be as transparent and unobtrusive as possible. This school of thinking prefers that all coffees be wet-processed, meaning that the fruit is removed from the bean immediately after picking so that it does not affect the taste of the bean, and the drying is done decisively and cleanly as possible. If the wet-processing is conducted with care and precision, and the drying is impeccable, the coffee will taste clean, bright but cleanly sweet, without murky ambiguities. For this school, any deviation from this clean, transparent cup, in other words, any taste characteristic that is added to the coffee through some idiosyncrasy of fruit removal or drying, is called a taste defect.

Romance Cuppers. For these coffee folks certain flavor taints and twists given the bean by deviations from the orthodox wet method of fruit removal and drying may be desirable. Romance cuppers consider coffee a product of culture as well as nature, and feel that various taste twists and taints given coffee by traditional ways of removing fruit from the bean are part of the full expression of coffee, and worthy of attention and enjoyment.