CM Selections Flavour Spectrum
Sensory experiences are very subjective and personal to each individual. When working with a product that is rooted in creating sensory experiences, then, we always have the possibility that the flavours, aromas and experiences perceived are different from one person to the next.
On top of that, coffee is an incredibly complex thing. Like wine and cacao there is a huge number of flavours and aromas that can be detected. So how can we share sensory information with each other in an accurate and meaningful way?
At Project Origin our intention is not to complicate the experience for the coffee taster or cupper. It should be fun, enjoyable and should help you see deeper into the world of specialty coffee and all the variables that have culminated to bring you the final experience.
So, we are launching the CM Selections Flavour Spectrum.
Why did we create the Flavour Spectrum?
We have created this tool specifically to help navigate the sensory journey of specialty coffees in an approachable way. This tool is not about cupping all coffees, in particular it is not designed for articulating defects or undesirable qualities. We’re focusing on specialty coffee with distinct and pleasant flavour attributes and a cup score of 83 or higher, because that is what specialty coffee roasters are usually cupping and buying. We have honed in on the kinds of flavour attributes found in our CM Selections coffees, however, the Flavour Spectrum may also be used when cupping classic washed, honey and natural processed coffees also.
Roasters, specialty coffee green bean buyers, baristas and coffee lovers everywhere may find this tool useful to single out and name the flavours and aromas experienced when cupping or assessing coffee. The idea is simple… think and sense in colour.
How are the flavours organised?
Tasting in colour is the exact idea that created the categories of our CM Selections coffees. All CM Selections lots are categorised based on the colours that represent the most prominent flavours of each coffee. Each category is named after a coloured gemstone that shares the same range of colours.
Represented by the Lapis lazuli stone the Indigo colour signifies intense flavours of dark fruit and chocolate and other unique elements like spices and funky tropical fruit. This includes coffees that have undergone extensive fermentation, creating bold and strong flavour profiles.
Australian Jasper, also known as Mookaite, is vivid red with flecks of orange and represents flavours of red, orange and yellow fruit. These coffees have undergone a range of carbonic maceration processes in order to maximise flavour yet maintain clarity with a medium level intensity.
Fashioned from fossilised tree resin, Amber gemstones are deep orange with spots of yellow and red indicating orange, yellow and some red fruit. The CM techniques used to process these coffees maximise harmony between flavour, sweetness and acidity.
Brilliant, sparkling and transparent, Diamond is the most elegant profile of the four categories. The CM techniques used highlight clarity and refinement and these coffees have characteristics of florals, white, yellow and light green fruit as well as being crisp, delicate and clean.
This category takes its name from the Australian national gemstone. Coffees in this category have a rich and diverse flavour profile that may borrow from all of the above four categories – they are full of colour. Real Opals reflect different colours depending on how light reflects in them. In a similar way CM Selections Opal lots reveal flavour notes that could be purple, red, green or yellow coloured fruits or florals depending on roast profile, roasted coffee age, brew temperature and consumption temperature.
When we use CM processing to create a coffee that tastes like, say, blueberry, bergamot, dark chocolate and red wine we categorise it as an Indigo lot because the flavours sit in the darker spectrum of colours. A coffee tasting like pineapple, orange, mango and toffee would fall into the Amber category as those flavours are mostly in the orange/yellow colour spectrum. Coffees that have attributes that cross over categories, for example a coffee that tastes like raspberry, cherry, peach, orange, chocolate and red rose are categorised by the dominant colour spectrum, in this case Jasper as most notes are in the red spectrum.
We have many different coffees in each category, and coffees from different origins in each category too. This doesn’t mean they’ll taste the same, just that they’ll share the same colour spectrum of tasting notes in general.
How do you use the Flavour Spectrum?
When cupping coffees, think about the colour of what you’re tasting. Then, start from the outside of the Flavour Spectrum circle and find the most obvious or closest dominant colour of the attribute you’re trying to describe. Is it dark or light? Purple, orange, green, white? Then look at the part of the wheel reflecting those colours and look at the surrounding descriptors for the one that matches your experience best.
For example, if you sense something floral you might say, “It tastes white”. Looking at the lightest part of the Flavour Spectrum you can then see jasmine, orchid, coffee blossom, magnolia, white tea. What kind of white do you taste?
Of course, one person’s description of raspberry might not be identical to another’s. Is it fresh raspberry, overripe raspberry, candy-like raspberry? The possible descriptors really are endless. But that’s the beauty of having a spectrum. If it’s a red flavour that you’re tasting, it’s probably that others are tasting red too. So this tool may help to open up the language we use to articulate what we taste and encourage all coffee lovers to feel comfortable describing and sharing their sensory experiences.
Why do green flavour notes appear under the Diamond category?
Diamond coffees are all about clarity and refinement. This often goes hand in hand with lighter coloured fruits, fruits with vibrant acidity and florals. The overall colour of the Diamond category is pale blue as a general idea of the flavour direction, but the kinds of flavours we taste in Diamond coffees range from white to yellow to green.
Why do the colours of the categories in the outer ring blend into each other?
We do this to demonstrate that the flavours are on a spectrum. Whilst each descriptor has been assigned to a particular category that doesn’t mean a coffee from a different category can’t have that flavour. Flavours that are most likely to cross between categories have been positioned closer to the category they might cross into.
For example, star fruit sits under the Amber category but has appeared in Diamond coffees before. Nectarine appears in the Diamond category but also appears in Amber lots sometimes. Cranberry and watermelon are Jasper flavour notes, but positioned near the Indigo category because they can often show up in Indigo coffees too.
Why are there yellow flavour descriptors in the Indigo category?
This was controversial as the colours match Amber more than Indigo. But the specific flavour notes listed – Banana, Soursop, Durian, Vanilla – show up most frequently in Indigo style coffees. They usually appear as funky notes alongside darker fruit and chocolate qualities. So we’ve placed them under the category that they appear most frequently.
But, as mentioned above, these flavours can appear in other categories from time to time too.
How do Opal coffees work?
Opal coffees have a spectrum all to themselves, and might taste like flavours from all four of the other CM Categories. For example, Panama Opal Enigma tasted like blueberry, dark grape, bergamot, strawberry, raspberry, mandarin, apricot, pineapple and kiwi depending on the brewing style and temperature of tasting.
These coffees are too complex to give just one main colour for their flavour profiles, so the Opal gemstone was chosen to represent them best, having a wide arrange of colours depending on the light they are viewed under.