Notes from the Cupping Table: January 2024

Posted by Lauren Lathrop on

We cup coffee every week at Mill City Roasters. Sometimes, we cup several times in a week.

These cuppings have different goals. Some are QC or "production" cuppings, where we are simply checking in on profiles and coffees that are being roasted for customers of our Toll Roasting Program. Others are evaluation cuppings, coffees we are assessing for customers to provide detailed feedback and advice for improving their roast craft as part of our consultation services. Very frequently, we're doing a purchase cupping, a cupping where we consider new greens and decide whether or not we'll be bringing them to our inventory. 

Purchasing new greens is a big task. With so many offerings to choose from, the options can be overwhelming. In this series, we'll be sharing insights on which coffees we sample roast, taste, purchase, or pass on, and why. 

Here are some of the coffees we tasted in January of 2024. 

Colombia Nariño Manos de Mujeras

We love coffees from Colombia that are bright, sweet, and super versatile. We've been carrying a coffee called El Tambo from the Cauca Department in Southwest Colombia for the past few months, and it's become a popular single origin on our Toll Roasting menu. In addition to roasting it for customers, we also used it to demonstrate sensory changes in profiling in our Coffee Fest classes at the end of last year. We're running low on that Cauca and went looking for something to replace it. We brought in a few samples, including another offering from Cauca as well as something different from the Department of Nariño which is directly south. 

The sample from Nariño had a sweet and herbaceous fragrance with notes of milk chocolate, red fruit, and citrus. It reminded us of the El Tambo with its clean, bright acidity and soft, candied sweetness. Compared to the other sample on the table, which was from Cauca, it was more complex, less savory, and had a pleasant mouthfeel with a texture that reminded us of simple syrup. It was a winner. It's available now on our green coffee page, and our toll roasting customers will see it on the roasted menu shortly. If you're joining us at Coffee Fest New York, you'll have a chance to sample it with us as part of our sensory skills class.

Peru FTO Norte

Bryant loves coffee from Peru and aims to keep it on the menu as long as it's in season. We tasted a few offerings from Peru last month, mostly from the Cajamarca region, since we are getting down to less than 10 bags of our current Peru, from Lima

The sample we liked the best was an FTO (Fair Trade Organic) offering from Cajamarca that had aromas of ripe berries and sugary cereal. The flavor was mild with a nice lime-like acidity and notes of chocolate. With a coffee like this, we know it will take to multiple roast levels and be easy to work with. We didn't purchase it right away, but with a decent amount in our importer's warehouse, we bookmarked it to order when we get down to just a few bags of our current Peru. This coffee will work well for the next few months and last us until the end of the Peru season. 


We accept green samples from farmers and importers who are looking for buyers. Sometimes, we'll receive a sample in the mail or at our warehouse door that's unsolicited. While we don't always know what it is, we do our best to roast and consider every sample that's delivered to us. 

Last month we received two samples of coffee from India, but didn't get a lot of details about them (region, elevation, varietal, process, etc). Still, we didn't want to miss out on a chance to try something new or potentially form a new relationship, so it went to the sample cupping table with the rest of the coffees we'd requested from our importer. 

The fragrance and aroma were sweet like a light caramel. In the cup, there was an initial flavor of baked apple, that gave way to a nutty cereal like Cap'n Crunch. As the cup cooled, though, the coffee didn't develop much and it stayed very "one-note", which is how we describe coffees that aren't very complex or don't change as the temperature decreases. The profile was nice but a little generic, and since we don't have a place on our menu for a coffee like this we decided not to purchase it. We followed up with the person who dropped off the sample, shared out thoughts and what we liked about the cup, and let them know we'd be in touch in the future if we wanted to try more samples. 

Other coffees to watch for

It's important to always have a great decaf option available, and for the past year or so we've sourced an EA decaf from Colombia. In January, we tasted a new EA decaf that will replace our current one when the time comes. It's from the Huila region and tastes like walnut, cocoa, and strawberry. 

Already on the greens page is the incredible Pink Bourbon from Colombia Manos Juntas. This is a returning coffee that we've purchased in past seasons. A vibrant and fruit-forward natural processed coffee that's bursting with tropical flavors. We're excited to carry this coffee and we're working on a few fun ways to utilize it, so stay tuned. 

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