Cup until I bleed


A competition that's the easiest to enter. But not the easiest to win. Those were the recurring words of MC during Cuptasters 2018.

I have entered this competition before. That was my first coffee competition ever. It's a good way to start.

Keeping that in mind I had some expectations. I couldn't have just thought "let's enter and see how it goes". It was the time to have a specific goal.

Training programme
Plan minimum was to be better than last year. The aim was quarter-finals.

My training was less organised than last year, but the sessions were more intense. The idea was to do as many triangulations as possible, get more fatigue resistant and build up confidence.

I did triangulation sessions roughly 3 times a week. Most of the time a full set of 8, made of filter coffee. Over time, I shifted coffees to more difficult, ending with table made of 4 coffees form the same roaster, blended in different proportions. The idea was to get used to conditions I was expecting at the stage.

In a bit over 2 weeks of intense practice, I improved from 4/8 in 5.35 min to 7/8 in 5.40 min. The difficulty of triangulations increased from one session to another.

Hitting 7 out of 8 in under 6 minutes with the most challenging table built up my confidence. Also after that last session my tongue was literally bleeding. I heard of people bleeding after tasting acids at ridiculous intensities. But never just from cupping.

The reason behind, which I discovered only on the competition day, was my technique. After every cup, I press and rub my tongue against the roof of mouth. I have no idea how I started doing that, but I guess it might kind of wipe the taste of previous cup. An unconsciously created habit. Now I need to be aware not to use too much force doing that.

Competition
I'm a big fun of Cup North. There are always many friends, interesting things going on and not as many people as on London Coffee Festival. An ideal competing environment.

My round was late in the afternoon, so after briefing I went for a huge breakfast and kept snacking on nuts until my round.

I saturated my palate with sponsor's coffee and palate cleanser. The latter being cold brew tea. Not only it washes off whatever I have tasted last, but also saturates me with tannins. Therefore bitter compounds don't overwhelm me and I'm able to distinguish them better. Still, those compound are of lower intensity than found in coffee. The aftertaste is short.

I wouldn't use it if I didn't practice with that. I also love to drink it before any coffee.

I hit 5/8 in 6.20

Which is better than last year, but kept me on my toes until last round. That was a very close call. Eventually I didn't go through. Nothing to be happy about, especially that I needed to be just a little bit faster to advance (less than a minute).

Comparing to last year I didn't freak out. I was nervous, my hands were shaky. But I was able to taste. I didn't burn my tongue. I improved my technique (order of tasting in triangle is important).

Primary goal has been achieved, close to secondary.

Next time more practice and faster decision-making.


Photo - thanks to Simona

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