Flavour profiles are used by coffee distributors to rate and evaluate coffee samples before they are put on the market. With so many different types of coffee, it’s important that sellers can be specific about the taste and aroma of individual coffees in order to be able to sell them accordingly and differentiate them from the rest.
This is never an exact science, but we can use standardisation such as flavour wheels to split various senses and flavour groups into segments. A coffee may hit various notes from all over a flavour wheel, but types of flavour can be grouped into overarching categories.
So far in this series, we’ve talked about fruity and floral coffees, as well as nutty, caramely and chocolatey. For this third instalment, we’re adding a bit of spice to the proceedings with our favourite spicy and herbal coffees.
Dry and spicy
Coffee flavours in this segment are referred to as ‘dry distillation’ flavours and are characterised by the burning of plant fibres during roasting. However, this doesn’t mean that ‘burnt’ is an adequate description for all of the flavours in this segment, which range from smoky to spicy to resinous in their aroma.
The specific aromatic notes you are likely to find in this segment include charred and burnt, thyme, clove and pepper, or cineolic, camphoric and piney. As you may have noticed, most of these describe carbon, woody or herby smells. These flavours tend to be fairly strong or pungent, and the spicier ones can have a ‘warming’ effect.
So what do we recommend?
Our top choices
Grown on the Indonesian island of Java, Java Arabica Coffee is our first pick. Exhibiting a medium/heavy body and low acidity, this one contains slightly spicy or smoky undertones. It leaves the drinker with a rather sweet finish on the palate.
Guatemala Antigua Coffee is an exceptional premium coffee. Strictly Hard Bean as grade (coffee grown at an altitude of higher than 4,500 feet above sea level, maturing slowly to become hard and dense), this coffee has a delicate smoky tone and a spicy taste, especially when roasted slightly darker with a touch of chocolate.
Our absolute favourite is Ethiopian Harrar Coffee. Intense without being shocking, this coffee combines the wild and exotic. Ethiopian Harrar has a bright, floral note in the cup with a strong aroma. This flavour cannot and will not leave you indifferent, with spicy notes of cinnamon, cardamom and blueberry.
This completes our guide to the aromatic half of the D R Wakefield flavour wheel.. Each coffee is a complex assortment of flavours that will likely pluck notes from all over the flavour wheel, but these standardised groupings put us in good stead for being able to discuss and classify our favourite coffees.