What are “notes” in coffee?
Coffee is one of the most complex beverages around. It has over 1,500 compounds responsible for everything from aroma to flavor. Flavor? Yes, flavor or notes. When we explain that coffee shouldn’t just taste like coffee, we often get asked if we add sweeteners to our coffees. The answer is no.
Coffee notes are a natural process, no additives are used to give flavor. It is related to the growing process, location of the crops, roasting, as well as many other factors that influence those subtle hints of flavor notes that are in every cup and might help you travel with your senses from floral notes, to citrus, to nutty, to caramel or chocolate, and this doesn’t mean that the coffee is ‘flavored’ that way. Those are just identifiable tastes that your senses bring up.
One of the best analogies in relation to coffee notes is wine, craft beer, or even whiskey when it comes to flavor profiles. For instance, you can plant the exact same grape variety around the world, but after you harvest it and turn it into wine, you will most likely feel a significant different flavor in the final product when you taste it. Same happens with coffee. The notes will be affected by factors such as:
The land where is grown, elevation, water composition, irrigation, as well as, shade and sun. Notes on coffee trees are also taken from their surroundings; depending on the plantation that they are among or next to, will cause an impact on the notes of the beans, for example, an orange plantation will share its components with the coffee plantation. Take for instance La Esperanza, with strawberry and tangerine notes.
Type of coffee variety also affects notes or flavor, whether is Caturra, Gesha, etc. Each one has its own characteristics.
Coffee is a fruit, so the way the grain is at a certain point during the process will have an effect on the notes. For instance, when you think about mangoes, taste will change if the mango is green, or raw, or ripe. Same applies to coffee.
The way coffee is processed, wet, semi-wet or natural, also determines its notes. Likewise, the way it is dried, how long it takes for it to dry and the way it sits in storage, and lastly, the way it is roasted (We’ll talk about types of roast in another blog.)
So, yes, flavor or notes can be found of coffee. Natural, subtle notes of different flavors that might take you down memory lane, wake up your senses or give you that feeling of comfort. Notes that travel from the farm to your cup.
‘When you taste the notes of a coffee grain, you are tasting the growing history of the grain.’ – Maria Jose Palacio