Barista Magazine

APR-MAY 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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F O A M : N E W S + T R E N D S SECOND-ANNUAL SCA SENSORY SUMMIT DIVES DEEP INTO THE SCIENCE OF EXPERIENCE AND PERCEPTION I BROUGHT A BRAND-NEW NOTEBOOK to Sensory Sum- mit, an interactive series of workshops and tastings hosted by the Specialty Coffee Association's (SCA) Coffee Roasters Guild and held January 25–27 at the University of California at Davis Coffee Center. After two days of presentations and lectures, as well as dozens of samples and experiments, my notebook was completely full. In the course of those two days, presenters from fi elds as varied as product design, cheese making, and chemical engineering talked about how we taste and experience coffee at what has already become one of the most exciting and highly anticipated coffee events of the year. Sensory Summit looks to other fi elds to expand on our industry's understanding of how fl avor is developed, how preferences are formed, and how to build better palates. "The craft of roasting takes more than skills in coffee cookery," says Roasters Guild Executive Council member Joe Marroc- co. "Coffee roasters have long relied on conventional wisdom passed down through generations to decide the best practices around how to best sensorially analyze their coffee. Through organizations like the Coffee Roasters Guild, better tools— more scientifi cally vetted tools—have become more implemented." Sensory Summit employs the facilities and staff that are part of the UC Davis Coffee Center. "In only three years, the Roasters Guild has created a truly unique and exciting event based on the continuation of our shared knowledge," says Jen Apodaca, Roasters Guild Executive Council member and one of the Summit's original organizers. "Industry pro- fessionals and researchers alike present on their work side by side, the conversations are illuminating, and attendees feel like they are at the epicenter of discussions that will move our industry forward." More than 100 attendees tasted and tested an array of coffees, beers, teas, and treats, and used their impressions and fi ndings to talk about larger issues with implications for sense and consumption. "So you go to the store and you buy a green tea, and the box says 'high in antioxidants,' but how do we know that?" asked Professor Albert Robbat, a member of the chemistry faculty and director of the Tufts University Sensory and Science Center. In his speech, Professor Robbat broke down how climate affects the fl avor of tea, and participants sampled green teas harvested at different times, along with their antioxidant breakdown. While tech- nically the late-harvest tea had more antioxidants, the early-har- vest tea was by far superior in fl avor. Professor Robbat noted this distinction as a sign of climate change on tea harvesting: Monsoon and rainy seasons are occurring sooner, which means tea has to be harvested quicker before the rains. "The off fl avor that you're tast- ing—that's the plant trying to protect itself," he said. Many of the discussions paired coffee experts with sensory scientists and researchers. In the presentation "Product Innova- tion through Sensory Design," Richard Harrod, a senior designer for Breville, teamed up with Henry "Hoby" Welder, cofounder and CEO of Senspoint Design, to talk about how design interacts with sensory experience. "Consumers want a product that shows you how it works," Richard said, getting into the nitty-gritty of how every design decision affects how people assume a coffee will taste. "We designed this beautiful home-espresso machine—it won dozens of design awards," he continues, showing a slide of the sleek, sophisticated appliance. "But people wanted a machine with more buttons … they wanted to know it was working." Breville's current home-espresso machine, he says, which looks more industrial, has been vastly more popular. Truly every single talk or lecture was interesting, and addressed topics attendees were excited to explore. "We wouldn't have the fl avor of chocolate if it weren't for fermentation," said Dr. Maria Marco, PhD, an assistant professor at UCD, in her talk, "Fermenta- tion and Flavor in Cheese," which she delivered with Sacha Laurin, the head cheesemaker for Winters Cheese Company. Professor William Ristenpart, who serves as the director of the UC Davis Coffee Center and is a professor of chemical engineering, had the audience's rapt attention for the discussion "Physical and Sensory Measures of Coffee Brewing." The session found him and postdoctoral scholar Scott Frost taking the Brewing Control Chart (you know the one—it's a grid that breaks down what percentage TDS and extraction is needed for an ideal cup of coffee) and smash- ing any premise that it's the only way to measure what makes a good cup of coffee. The duo played with the shape of the brew basket and combined numerical data and taste studies to determine which was better for extraction. "Basket geometry," Professor Ristenpart says, "makes a difference." Though promoted as a Coffee Roasters Guild activity, Sensory Summit is a stunning example of an educational forum with take- aways for professionals in all segments of the coffee industry. "This event also allows different nodes on the coffee-value chain to gather together with roasters," says Joe Marrocco. "Importers, exporters, millers, roasters—we are all roasting samples and analyzing coffee." The price of participation is steep—a single ticket for Sensory Summit runs around $1,000—but I came away feeling it was 100 percent worth it. ÑAshley Rodriguez The SCA's Sensory Summit at UC Davis was an informative and interactive two days of tasting, smelling, discussing, and enjoying myriad strange and delicious things. PHOTO COURTESY OF SCA 24 barista magazine

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