There’s some exciting, and strange coffee flavours listed on coffee bags these days, and not all of them make immediate sense. Here we dig into the chocolatey, fruity and zesty world of coffee tasting notes…
Coffee tastes like, er, coffee right?
Well yes, and no.
Of course, there’s a pretty distinct flavour to coffee, but if it all tasted the same, we wouldn’t be in business, and us roastery misfits would have to find somewhere else to call home. Within that distinct coffee flavour we all know and love there’s a whole realm of nuances. We’ve all been stung with a cup or two in our time of a coffee that tasted bitter and brash and like a smokey old bonfire. But we’ve all had that cup that transcends our preconceptions too. That rich, wonderfully complex cup that holds us in a trance. However, describing the flavours in coffee requires a little bit of focus.
Let’s look at chocolatey flavours
You see, if we say a coffee is chocolatey you’re going to be in for a nasty shock if you think it’s going to taste exactly like a cup of hot chocolate. What we’re saying here, is that there’s a smooth, silky sweetness that has a character kinda similar to chocolate. It’s a flavour hidden within the coffee, not THE flavour of the coffee.
And that could take a different angle depending on what you get. When we sip the coffee, do we get a subtle hint of milk chocolate like a bar of Dairy Milk, or is it more concentrated and intense, like a bar of strong dark chocolate - the posh kind that costs a few quid?
As we said, this isn’t the dominating flavour. When you read this tasting note on a coffee bag, don’t worry, it’s still going to taste like coffee, but if you’re interested in the subtle nuances, if you want to get a mental picture of how the flavour profile is balanced, then chocolate should give you a rough idea.
Dipping into fruit flavours
Fruit notes are a big one, and to some it can feel like a bizarre kind of flavour to associate with a cup of coffee. Well we know now that if we read strawberry on the coffee bag, that it’s not going to be tasting like a strawberry lemonade, nor are strawberries used in the production process. But like that dark chocolatey note we just spoke about, maybe we get a hint of freshness, somewhat similar to a strawberry. Perhaps there’s a dried fruit note in there, you know, like a bar of fruit and nut, like chocolate covered raisins. Do you get that too? Maybe not, but you see where we’re going here.
Citrussy flavours like lemon, grapefruit or satsuma are used quite often when describing how a coffee tastes. The best way of understanding this is the relationship of acidity in a coffee - which they all have to some degree. A lot of these light flavours are going to be more pronounced and ‘louder’ in lighter roasted single origin coffees. I’m looking at you Ethiopia…
Other flavours you might see
Floral flavours might be written or talked about when discussing coffee too. Again this tends to come through in lighter roasted single origins, and could refer to the kind of tea-like quality they might have. Perhaps like a Jasmine tea, or that Earl Grey kind of taste. It’s about paying attention and trying to find the closest things that these subtle flavours in the coffee taste like.
Coffee is a really complex ingredient. As well as different varietals and origins bringing different flavours to your cup of coffee, we also have the processing and roasting of coffee, each playing a role in the eventual cup you drink at home on a Sunday morning. One of the things that keeps coffee so interesting, is the balance of flavours we can explore within it. It’s what keeps us excited, and helps you to paint a picture of what our different coffees might taste like when you brew them at home.