As we’ve previously noted, the Specialty Coffee Association of America has produced a flavor wheel that can help you assess what flavor notes are present in a cup of coffee. This wheel is divided into sections that relate to different categories of flavors/aromas. In this article, we are going to take a look at the “sweet” section of the flavor wheel.
The sweet section of the SCAA Flavor Wheel is perhaps the most coveted of all flavor-wheel sections. Now, the sweet section doesn’t have quite the variety the “Fruity” section does, but flavors in it are all crowd pleasers that few coffee drinkers would object to finding in their cup! Sweet flavors also often synergize with other sections of the wheel- for example, the Nut/Chocolate section.
Central American coffees are, in particular, often noted for their sweetness. Costa Rican coffees often carry a chocolatey and nutty sweetness. Mexican coffees tend to be a bit oilier and carry a more caramelized sweetness. Guatemalan coffees carry a more varied set of sweet flavors, but are characteristically balanced by more “spicy” flavors as well.
So let's say you have just taken a sip of a great Guatemalan. You might note a particularly bright sweetness- but, what kind of sweet is it? Is it similar to vanilla? Brown sugar? If it’s brown sugar, is it more like honey or caramelized sugar? Tasting these more granular flavors is a sign of a good bean, roasted and brewed the correct way.
Now, let us take a more in-depth look at the sweet section of the SCAA flavor wheel. Sweet is broken down into a few different categories. All of them have something new and grand to offer, so let's take a look at what they are!
If you are looking for sweet notes in your coffee, Central American coffees are a prime place to start. As with other types of notes, soil, climate, roasting method, and brewing method all contribute to the eventual flavors you taste.
Like anything else, developing a palette is a skill that takes time and practice to refine. One way you can develop your coffee further is through a coffee cupping. Another idea is to try pairing cups of coffee with associated foods: try an almond biscotti with a coffee exhibiting a vanilla sweetness, or a brown sugar cookie with a Mexican bean. Over time, you will gain an increased ability to perceive more granular flavors and have an enhanced appreciation of coffee from different regions.
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