Why is it hard toTalk About Coffee?

The UK has never been so in love with food. The last couple of decades have seen British tastes expand rapidly into new cuisines and ingredients. As if enlivened by a spritz of lime, the country’s palate has woken up.

But we haven’t just ventured outwards. As we explore new flavours, we’ve looked more closely at familiar foods too.

Wine was first. Excitable ’80s TV wine experts sometimes got a bit carried away, but their more grounded descriptions stuck. Over time, talk of blackberry notes and green apple aromas crossed into the mainstream.

Whisky followed, as distilleries gained the confidence to label bottles with notes of wood, spice and caramel. In 2017, accessible flavour descriptions adorn everything from craft beer and gin to cheese and chocolate.

And then there’s coffee. Though relatively simple – just the seeds of a plant, roasted, ground and brewed – its complexities go deep.

Jamie Ball, coffee innovation manager at Yorkshire coffee roastery, Taylors of Harrogate, said: “More than 800 flavours and aromas have been identified in coffee. That’s hundreds more than in wine, including everything from pomegranate, nutmeg and coconut to tobacco, jasmine and even black tea. There are so many factors at play, from the climate and the altitude to the plant varietal and the way it’s roasted. Just like wine, coffee captures the character of the place it was grown and expresses that as flavour.

Jamie Ball.

“It’s an amazing world to explore, but the complexity that sometimes comes with it can be off-putting. Yes, that heirloom coffee from eastern Kenya may have with an 83 SCAA rating and be made with SL-28 beans grown at 1700ft above sea level – but not everyone’s a coffee geek.

“I love that stuff. I could talk about it for hours – and I frequently do. But there’s sometimes a perception that if you can’t engage with coffee flavour at this sort of depth, you shouldn’t be talking about it at all.

People used to feel like wine was snobby – and speciality coffee’s in that place right now. It’s time for that to change.

That’s the mission behind Taylors’ new range. Those 800 flavours and aromas fall into a few key categories – like chocolate, nuts, citrus, berry, spice and floral – so Jamie and the team set out to create a range, where each coffee really showcase each of those categories.

“It’s about opening the doors to everyone, by simplifying the language of coffee without dumbing it down,” said Jamie. “So we’re working with some really good coffee growers from origins with a key flavour characteristic – like the chocolate notes of Colombia, the nutty tones of Brazil and the floral hints of Ethiopia. And we’ve absolutely perfected the way we roast each one to really emphasise that characteristic.

Our coffee flavour wheel.

We could not be more proud of the flavour - it’s honestly beautiful. That’s why we want everyone to be able to talk about it.

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