AROUND THE TASTE IN 80 DAYS
Cindy and I had a fascinating (and at times, shocking) time testing some diverse tastes. With 4 Croissants, 4 Countries’ Reserve Coffee styles, 8 Draft Beers and 4 Red Wines tested, we had the pleasure of testing our taste buds and exploring the tasting process on multiple fronts and dimensions.
Croissants – Easy | Beer – Medium | Coffee – Challenging | Wine – Very Challenging
My senses were challenged on various levels when trying (sometimes struggling) to identify the different tastes, notes and smells across the parallel products in each tasting. I found croissants quite simple to distinguish. They were complex products with clearly different shape, size, feel, crunch, even amount of chocolate on the inside (yes we did CHOCOLATE croissants). Meanwhile, red wine and coffee, which relied as much on smell as taste, often baffled me as I attempted to compare some of the more delicate differences
TASTE VOCABULARY: COLLABORATIVE VS INDIVIDUAL TASTINGS
Croissants – Collaborative | Reserve Coffee – Collaborative | Beer – Individual | Wine – Individual
EXPLORING THE PROCESS: GUIDED VS UNGUIDED
Croissants – Unguided | Reserve Coffee – Guided | Beer – Guided | Wine – Unguided
Our four “types” of tastings revealed differences in experience that seemed unique in each.
In our collaborative, unguided tasting, we designed a process ourselves for tasting and proceeded at the same time. Interestingly, Cindy and I ended up using very disparate language to describe what we tasted. She was, for example, precise in the taste offered. “Sweet, Bitter, Sour” might be example terms. I, by contrast, tended to default to the physical position within the mouth I experienced a taste. “It is heavy on the tongue and the back of the throat,” I might say.
This was also the case in all other unguided tastings, for me. The difference in the collaborative tasting was that we chose to explore the vocabulary of senses we were experiencing in the moment TOGETHER. This influenced the notes we took and our experience of the product.
In the case of guided tastings, an expert offered a proper tasting method and vocabulary. With the reserve coffee, one places their hand over the small cup of coffee to briefly build up the smells and then waft them into ones nose. I found that, in the collaborative example, we were more likely to use a consistent vocabulary in this case. Further, it was in moments of difficulty ascertaining a particular taste that we might briefly return to default methods of description. In the individual example, I also found this dynamic to be the case.
I enjoyed the beer tasting the most. 8 products offered a fantastic range of experience within a narrow product type. from Alegash White to Guinness, a gamut of light to dark brews were explored and with the guided efforts of a knowledgeable bartender, it was the most valuable as a learning experience. My favorite beer? A heavy, spicy, full-mouthed DOUBLE IPA.
As a process, I enjoyed the collaborative, guided process most. between a partner in crime and the barista expert, we were offered both context as well as room to explore through our team dynamic. There was ultimately a healthy balance of the “proper way” of tasting and experimentation.