Big Joe stumbles across a free cupping session

A little while ago I got another series of texts from Big Joe in Seattle. According to Wikipedia, “Seattle is regarded as a world center for coffee roasting and coffee supply chain management.” (You know, Starbucks.)

“I stumbled across a free coffee cupping session at Caffe Vita. Every Friday at 10:00 a.m. apparently. About 20 of us got to taste 12 different coffees. We used clean spoons to put coffee into our individual cups. It’s not the same as a complete end to end cupping per person of course. Sam here is their director of coffee experience. I think a lot of roasters from Portland to Seattle have one hour a week where they offer free cupping.

I asked her about the coffees which were all in funny little bags. She had collected these at coffee industry trade events. Free samples really. But she had brought a lot of her favorite unusual ones. A lot of light roasts. Fair amount of Ethiopia and Guatemala. Pretty interesting. Fruity

A couple of the coffees tasted so much like fruit juice and not coffee, and that was pretty exciting. I didn’t really want to own those coffees though.

[Joe bro] says that Stumptown always had a good cupping, and [Joe bro] and I are going to a cupping at Coava when I’m passing through Portland next week. There are websites that list all the cuppings in Portland and Seattle, separate sites or people on Reddit or blogs.”

So that’s a good tip for those of you living in or visiting the Seattle/Portland areas, interested in cupping. Here are links to some older posts I wrote on cupping:
Intro to Cupping
Cuppin’ da Bea’s Knees
Cupping to improve your palate

5 thoughts on “Big Joe stumbles across a free cupping session

  1. Hi BKF, I’m still pretty new at branching out from a full medium roasts. The first time I tried Coava’s S.O. Blend I laughed joyously at how chocolatey it was. But now that I’ve tried four or five of their single origins with a variety of roasts, I think there are my favorite roaster at the moment. They are a company that does not specify the roast ( light, medium, or dark) which is pretty common for a top roaster these days. They roast the coffee to best suit it’s abilities. But I found it impressive that all of their single origin beans were sold both roasted for drip AND for espresso. If you follow them for more than 2 months at a time you will see them offering 10 or 12 single origin coffees and maybe a couple of blends. My Brother’s coffee pallet is a bit more advanced than mine and he was pretty blown away with everything he tasted. I don’t have any individual tasting notes to give.

    I’ve only been to the shop on SE 10th and Main, which is where they roast I believe. It’s big and industrial in the back with a bit of wall and glass separating the nice shop, tasting classroom, and Cafe where they really give you a slow personal experience with the barista. They can do pour over in paper or metal filters. Also, some of the roasters were around chiming in to answer our questions. Their other two cafes are much more proper cafes (also in the SE.) They mentioned that I might find a few more coffee varieties in the proper cafes.

  2. Thanks for the PDX shout-out 🙂 Seattle and Portland both have great coffee scenes; if there’s a difference it seems that Seattle strives for technical excellence, while Portland strives for innovation and experimentation. The best cupping I’ve experienced was at Case Study in Portland, and they were also where I had my first “cascara tea” made from the coffee cherry (full disclosure: their Alberta Street location is less than a mile from my house, so I’m probably biased). Water Avenue coffee is another Portland roaster doing some fun experiments. I have fond memories of my first Ethiopian Yergacheffe beans in a Chemex pour-over at Stumptown – that blew my tiny mind. There are plenty of Hawai’i food carts up here, but sadly I haven’t found any roasters playing with Hawai’i coffee beans. I ask for them regularly, but maybe the ROI is tough for small businesses in a competitive coffee town. By the way, congrats on passage of the Kona coffee bill! 50% isn’t 100%, but this is a step in the right direction from just 10%.

    1. Thanks for the additional PNW tips, Rob! I’ve done a cupping at Stumptown on one of my first two trips to Portland, many years ago. Very fun. Before Bea’s Knees time. Yes, excited about the Kona coffee blending bill. 51% is better than 10%, but it’s a shame we couldn’t make it to 100%, because now I don’t think it’ll ever happen, given the many decades 10% lasted.

  3. It’s always fun to be a part of your blog! One small update, my brother and I followed some old instructions on an out-of-date web page to go to Coava Coffee Roasters for their weekly cupping when I was visiting him in Portland, but they had discontinued that! They told us that they were working on bringing it back though. But we tasted three coffees anyway. Three different ways. We ended up tasting a brewed, an espresso, and a pour over.

    And I must give props and thank Sam in the photo above for her generosity as an employee of Cafe Vita who roasts their own excellent coffee, but she did the cupping with entirely coffee that was not for sale, purely because it was interesting and diverse.

    1. Thanks for the update, Big Joe! Any thoughts about Coava’s coffee three ways? What was your favorite and why? And, thanks, Sam, for pursuing interesting and diverse coffee experiences. [Sidenote: Strangely, when I was a kid (under 10 y.o. age), my friend’s dad gave me the nickname Sam …]

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