Coffee Cupping 101

Ibrahim Al Mallouhi and Alessandro Bonuzzi host a coffee cupping event at The Espresso Lab
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The Hundred Wellness Centre, founded by Emirati entrepreneur Asma Hilal Lootah, has The Espresso Lab within its premises, created by UAE-based barista Ibrahim Al Mallouhi.

As part of Al Mallouhi’s passion to share coffee knowledge, Alessandro Bonuzzi, who is the head of coffee and training at the Artisan Coffee School in London, was invited to host a coffee cupping event.

On the day, different origin speciality coffees were lined up, and aficionados were invited to taste each one. Everyone had a spoon and a glass of iced water, and were instructed to bring a spoon of coffee close to their lips, position it right under their nose, and slurp.

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Bonuzzi explained: “The idea is to spray the coffee at the back of the palate, so it’s closer to the nose and you can perceive quicker.”

For every 10g of coffee, 180g of clean filtered water was used, with the coffee brewing for approximate 10 minutes each at 92–93°C; and at 60–65°C for tasting.

Bonuzzi explained: “The whole idea behind cupping is to assess quality. It’s also about enjoying coffee flavour. Cupping is simply two ingredients: coffee and water. Water makes up the vast majority of your brew, so water is obviously very important, and it could be as important as your coffee bean. So filtration and quality of water is a key element.”

When cupping, Bonuzzi said he looks for four things: “The first thing is that we’d like to feel the coffee to be clean. The second thing is how sweet it is. Number three is acidity — acidity prolongs flavour perception, and provided that you have sweetness, acidity is a very good thing. Fourth will be flavour profile.”

Al Mallouhi added: “The reason we are doing this is to raise awareness about speciality coffee, and what’s the right way to do cupping.

“The market is getting mature so we’d like to make sure it matures in the right way, and it’s also about meeting coffee connoisseurs in the UAE, and working together.”

Bonuzzi agreed with Al Mallouhi about the importance of community. “Education is key. We have a saying that a high tide raises all boats. So it’s important to convey the right messages and educate people. Coffee is embedded in our culture, and we know too little about it. And for too long we have associated coffee with a black beverage with bitter flavour, and we are extremely delighted that speciality coffee came about.

“Coffee is possibly the second most traded commodity in the world, and speciality coffee is only a fraction of this. But it is the segment of the market that is enjoying the biggest expansion,” said Bonuzzi.

He credited increased levels of travel and an interest in provenance as some of the factors in improving coffee culture.

“It’s good to see new brewing methods which are coming about, it’s good to see new baristas are employing skills and technology. It’s good to see that coffee is more accessible, and there is influence from places like Australia, Scandinavia, and London.

“In the UAE, there’s a very fertile ground to develop the market, so I was delighted that Ibrahim invited me here today.”

Al Mallouhi concluded: “The Espresso Lab is about passion, it’s about passing the knowledge to the consumer, and it’s about art. How we are presenting it, how we are doing the espresso. I am very happy that Asma from Hundred Wellness Centre allowed me to pursue my dream. I’ve always wanted to do this but do it in the right way and she gave me the right platform for it.”

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