CONSIDERED ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR DRINKS IN THE WORLD, coffee can be simple (“Just black, please”) or highly personalized (“I’ll have a triple venti non-fat at 125 degrees”). Regardless of a coffee drinker’s preference, each mug of caffeine goodness ideally starts with high-quality, roasted-to-perfection beans.
For a fun way to dive deeper into that ubiquitous cup o’ joe, serious roasters and cafés offer coffee cuppings. Similar in concept to wine tastings, coffee cuppings can be a tasting of as few as four coffees to as many as 10 or so. Here are a few of our favorite coffee houses where you can get a high-octane education. Some single-origin beans can pack plenty of punch in just a couple of slurps, so be warned.
Black Cup Café / Cafe Del Mundo Coffee Company
Black Cup (cafedelmundo.com) has had a presence in Anchorage since 1975. Every Friday at 4:00 p.m., the café offers complimentary cuppings featuring many of the main coffees roasted in-house. Single-origin is the focus, but blends sneak in from time to time. Owner Doug Griffin sees these gatherings as an opportunity to showcase the differences between coffees and demonstrate what his employees do behind the scenes to maintain quality and consistency. Black Cup also hosts the annual Alaska Barista Cup, a latte art and cupping competition for the Alaska barista and coffee community.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters
With several locations in Portland and Seattle (and a couple in New York, L.A. and New Orleans), the Rose City is home base for Stumptown (stumptowncoffee.com), and it’s at their Southeast Salmon Street headquarters that java hounds can engage in a fun and educational complimentary tasting a couple times a week at 3:00 p.m. Sample a multitude of beans, dive into the history of coffee, throw around words like nutty, fruity, citrus, mild and astringent and feel free to ask every question about coffee you’ve ever been itching to ask. You’d be hard-pressed (or cold-pressed or French-pressed) to stump one of these baristas.
Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.
Every Friday at 10:00 a.m., the downtown location of Olympia Coffee (olympiacoffee.com) offers free tastings of rotating coffees. Office manager Kristen Trevorrow explains that since regular cuppings are an industry standard to maintain quality control, why not open the concept to the public. From El Salvador to Ethiopia, Colombia and Guatemala, the tastings are like a world tour for caffeine devotees. Like wine, everyone comes to it with their own palate and Olympia Coffee pays special attention to share the stories of the co-operative or individual farmer they buy their beans from.
DOMA Coffee Roasting Company
Post Falls, Idaho
Coffee educator Scott Yost presides over the monthly cuppings at DOMA (domacoffee.com), and the space itself is reason enough to check it out. Held in their lab, it’s a true behind-the-scenes look at a coffee company that honors their farmer partnerships and invests strongly in education with themed cuppings, from a certain region to roast levels, to conceptualizing flavor by separating aroma from taste. The terroir of coffee is highlighted as customers are taken through four to eight different coffees. Roastery tours, classes such as brewing and latte art and lectures on a variety of coffee topics are also regularly offered.
Montana Coffee Traders
At their Roastery on Hwy 93, Montana Coffee Traders (coffeetraders.com) has been roasting coffee since 1981. Today, visitors can partake in monthly tastings (always scheduled on Friday at 10:00 a.m.) and even enjoy a tour with an advanced reservation. With three cafés throughout Montana, the Roastery has its own espresso bar but also entices with baked goods and a cozy space stocked with bagged beans, coffee accessories and locally made items. Every cupping highlights their commitment to organic, fair-trade and shade-grown certified coffees.