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Drinking vs. Tasting

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When the Average Joe goes to seek out his usual Cup of Joe, the tendency is that there is not a whole lot of variety to it. In most cases, the idea that there are "origins" or "roasting profiles" or "in-season offerings" go against the very spirit of that indomitable, dependable constant: a simple cup of coffee. A little cream, a little sugar, and all is well with the world...right?

Well, perhaps not. This may be getting a wee bit too philosophical for the Prima Coffee blog, but I would wager to say that a fairly large portion of the coffee-drinking American doesn't drink coffee for its taste, but for the pick-me-up factor, and that such a practice is more than a little sad. The scientific sorts among us will assert that coffee has more than 800 aromatic volatile compounds. Red wine, on the other hand, has far, far less -- I've seen or heard the count is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30, but I'm not certain -- to boast of; quite minuscule by comparison. Those compounds will contribute, as their name hints at, aromas that we sense as we consume a cup of coffee. While aroma is not all there is to food and drink, it certainly plays a large part in what we are "tasting" when we drink, especially coffee.

If one were to conclude, based on those figures, that coffee has a significantly larger degree of discernible flavor than red wine, I think most average persons would be taken aback. I know, I know, you're saying that we're just talking about the aroma, since aromatic volatile compounds are sensed in the aroma, and that that's not fair to wine, since everyone knows that coffee smells great but tastes terrible...right? Well, flip that around and tell those same persons that red wine actually has far more aromatic volatile compounds than coffee, and I daresay that much nodding and agreeing would ensue; virtually no one would argue findings that confirmed their prior suspicions, namely, that red wine has a complexity and intensity of flavor that its aroma contributes directly to, right?

I made a few presumptions in making my point, and I readily concede that I have done so, but only to underscore what has already happened: coffee's reputation as a bitter but otherwise boring beverage is understandable and well-earned, yet it is unjust. I think it fair to say that most of us have never had a great cup of coffee, nor have we ever sat down to think about what we are missing out on. Therefore, I bring up all of this to raise a simple question: Do we, as a coffee consuming people, actually taste our coffee, or do we just drink it?

More on this later.

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