More than Just Lattes: Cupping at Toby’s Estate

The smell of coffee wafting in the air makes me happy for some reason. This olfactory experience is linked to the emotion center of the brain, thus my feelings of happiness, comfort, and relaxation. Sipping coffee makes it even better. It doesn’t last that long, though, and that sucks.

My coffee adventure isn’t that book-publishing worthy. I just like coffee as it is. However, it took me a pinch of idiosyncrasy to actually try out different local brands of instant coffee from dark to milky white, whatever that is. With this random and weird urge, I was able to develop that level of comparison and differentiation among tastes. It was fun because I got to feel like some snooty connoisseur (of local coffee brands, at least). And that was it.

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With this coffee-holic urge came my curiosity to learn more. A friend recently tagged me along to an open-cupping session at Toby’s Estate. Nothing quaint. Set in a simplistic coffee outlet in Makati, cupping at Toby’s Estate let me experience coffee on a whole new level.

Cupping sessions start off with taste calibration by checking on the participants’ taste: if sour is sour, or if sweet is sweet to everyone. This then progresses to sniffing coffee beans, which is ground, and more sniffing. Everyone’s asked to express their ideas and opinion. Hot water is then poured onto the ground coffee to reveal so much more. The cupping experience isn’t just about smelling and tasting, though; it is also about experiencing coffee as more than just a stimulant. It’s a story to tell.

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Aside from learning that it’s better to taste coffee by slurping and not just sipping to spread the taste evenly in the mouth, here are 3 more things that I learned and want to share with you.

There is a difference between fragrance and aroma.

Fragrance is the smell of the actual raw or ground beans. Aroma is the “lingering” when hot water is poured into the ground coffee. Truly, the smell changed because of the process of mixing and extracting.
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There are 3 bases to assess coffee.

To be able to figure out if a certain type of coffee is okay, three things should be kept in mind. One: there is sweetness. Some coffee has that level of sweetness, in the fruity and mild taste. Two: coffee is preferred on its level of acidity. There are some kinds of coffee that are tangy and acidic. Some people prefer this kind. And lastly: there is an aftertaste. Some coffee keeps that lingering going in the mouth for a few seconds. And this makes everything last. Other types of coffee just end the lingering of taste just like that, and that abrupt experience makes them distinct among the rest. 9tobyscupping

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There are different effects and experiences for every kind of coffee.

At the end of the session, the coffee origins were revealed. Sumatran/Indonesian coffee is dark, nutty, and strongly lingering. For those who like hardcore brews, this is a good take. The Costa Rican Coffee (Costa Rica El Jaguar) is sweet and mild. This kind of coffee is honey-processed. The sweetness is apparent and delightful. The African Coffee (Ethiopian Yirgacheffe Konga) is flowery, fruity, and nature-like in taste. Because it’s soil-grown, it has acquired this distinct taste. And lastly, which is my preferred kind of coffee, is the Bukidnon Coffee. It has a melon and papaya kind of taste, yet still maintains that sweet-bitter taste. It’s my kind of coffee with just the right kick.

So every coffee isn’t just about the geographical location making it exotic and thus more expensive. The process of growing makes coffee distinct, leading to different experiences among coffee lovers.

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I must say, the cupping session was a learning experience for me. I thought that sipping my cup of coffee was all there is. In essence, coffee is a conduit for people to communicate. It isn’t about how pricy, fancy, or trendy it is. It has a story to tell and an essence to reveal.

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