Breakfast was waiting for us. Tahini, muesli, almond milk, apricots, and of course a few cups of coffee. The day was going to be purely about learning, and getting me more up to speed with the industry I’m working in. Luckily, I had an excellent teacher. Yiannis Taloumis, Greece’s largest specialty coffee distributor – owner of Taf Coffee.
First on the agenda was a crash course in roasting. Yiannis’s brother, Elias, is a master roaster. His days are spent playing with their different roasting machines, adjusting air, flame, and times to roast coffee profiles that are unique – but most importantly consistent. They practice on a small machine. Allowing them to experiment with only a few hundred grams of the green coffee at a time. Once confident though they move to the big boys, and will roast up to 50-kilos at a time.
I got to play with the little guy. A 300-gram roaster that Taf uses for their experiments. They gave me two chances. Each one being a thirteen-minute round during which I tracked the time, temperature, and air in an attempt to have the “first crack” at minute 8, and the roast complete at 9:30 minutes.
The “first crack” happens much like what happens when making pop-corn. You hear a crackle echoing inside the roasting drum, and it signals you that the beans are almost done. At that point, you usually allow a bit more air into the drum, and take a few whiffs of the roasted beans to determine their readiness. If I learned anything, it is that the whole process is an art.
I have been to many wine tastings. Coffee tasting are more intimate (as well as nasty). More so than taste – for me – it is an aromatic experience. From the fresh grounds to the finally brewed cup, you pick out unique aromatic qualities – each of which begin to form a story behind every cup.
What is nasty though is the protocol. Once the tasting begins, the room fills with a sound of sharp and loud slurps. Almost like you were surrounded by kids rudely trying to suck through a straw the last drops of a soda. The reason behind it is that you must spray the coffee throughout your mouth, allowing it to hit each sensory part of your tongue. Maybe I’m being sensitive…but there has to be a better way.
And thank you to our beautiful translator, Iro.