I recently tried a very grassy underdeveloped coffee. Beans were hard as rocks. Coffee tasted really bad.
But the marketing of the roaster was more or less what you would expect it to be. With the words like “excellence”, “leading roaster”, “specialty coffee”, “professional approach”, “let us take you for a journey to the world of specialty coffee” etc
So it made me think. If I were trying my first specialty coffees now, in Portugal (my first ones happened with me in 2011 in Moscow, so to say 8 years ago) – but if I were tasting them now, how would it be?
Probably if I were to drink that hard-as-rocks greenish coffee, it would have been my last. Ever.
Or no. I could think “Ok, probably I am not understanding something here. I find it nasty, but other people praise it, and those guys are saying that they have 30 years of experience – so I should investigate better, I guess”.
And after investigating for a year or two I would have arrived to the same conclusions – their coffee is underdeveloped and hard as rocks, so although they say that they know what they are doing, it’s just pure marketing”.
Possibly 2 years of investigating to understand that you were taken for stupid back then.
I paid that price before, back in the 2011-2012-2013…, there is no doubt. I was buying ground coffee, coffee that was stored in the glass jars in the shop, coffee with no roast date, coffee that had to be specialty but was just a marketing trick, coffee tasting very old, coffee that was badly roasted – all sorts of things. And I still do sometimes, I am just more conscious of how we perceive taste, and how any other factors affect taste. And I also give myself the right to make mistakes – and therefore to learn, so I never say I know everything. I just study the facts, looking for the things that I possibly could miss.
But… I was wondering, does it necessarily have to be this way?
Probably yes. We should buy bad coffee thinking that it is superb, brag about it in front of our friends, showing off how cool we are – and then half of the year after feel ashamed of even ever thinking that that roaster could be something worthy.
Probably all of those who are interested in Specialty should go through this, until having a reliable palate and enough understanding of the flavour.
It’s a pity to understand that the way to it is going through lots of many wasted on coffee that is pure trash.
Do I regret now? Not really.
But. I am thinking how to improve the experience of those who are just starting. Is it even a problem? Do people need some sort of guidance of what is what? And if they do, in which way? Or buying bad coffee and believing it is good is something inevitable, and can be considered a part of the learning curve?
P.S. I make a difference between taste and preferences in taste. Taste is objective. A professional taster can actually deliver a number of how tasty and complex and balanced the coffee is. Preferences in taste are not objective. Becoming a professional taster is a process.