Intelligentsia NY Coffee Lab
594 Broadway, Suite 909A
New York, NY 10012
By cupping, I don’t mean that ancient Chinese practice of applying heating cups on your back to heal your ailments. Coffee cupping is like wine tasting, but with coffee. After visiting the Intelligentsia cafe by Millennium Park during the Taste of Chicago Food Festival, I was eager to visit their NY Lab.
I dragged myself to the $10, one-hour cupping class on Halloween morning to see what it had to offer. It had eight spots open but my date and I were the only ones who came since I suppose everyone else in the city was prepping for Halloween. It made for a much more cozy atmosphere where we asked all the questions we wanted and I took the liberty to take just as many photos.
Our barista/professor was Ramine (spelling?!), a pretty laid-back guy who owns a coffee shop in Brooklyn. After some small talk over coffee, he laid out four cups of different coffee grinds for each of us and our first step was to smell each cup and write down our thoughts about the aromas on a chart. I used mostly generic adjectives such as “rich”, “dark”, or “sweet” to describe what I smelled. I haven’t gotten to the point of training my nose to detect a hint of lemon, blackberry or persimmon that others may catch with their snobby olfactory senses. But who says a common coffee lover can’t enjoy smelling coffee? I took the pleasure of taking it all in by putting the brim of the cup over my nose as if it was an oxygen mask that dropped out from the ceiling of a plane and I was inhaling for my life.
Next Ramine poured water into each cup so we could describe the wet aroma by breaking the foam in the coffee. It definitely brings out other flavors you can’t smell with the dry aroma but for whatever reason, I liked the dry aroma better.
Finally Ramine took all the foam out and we took a spoonful of each coffee and slurped the coffee to check for flavor, body, acidity and finish. There were definitely coffees I didn’t like (#2, #3,) because they were too dark or bitter for my taste. I like #1 and #4 better; particularly #4 because it was “fruity,” “sweet,” and “clean.”
Turns out that #1 was “La Maravilla,” a coffee from Guatemala, and #4 was “Kenya Gichathaini.” My date gravitated toward the #2 which was from Zambia and the #3, the “Pacamara Peaberry,” which was from Nicaragua.
Ramine was really sweet to give us all four coffee bags to take home with us, even though it doesn’t say on the Web site that that would be part of the deal. It’ll be our little secret.
I forgot to mention Intelligentsia is a do-gooder and participates in direct trade with the coffee farmers and buys seasonally. As for the cupping class, taking the time to smell the dry aroma of the coffee grinds and talking about what we all smelled was fun; it’s comical to see how everyone smells different things from the same cup. But the best part was getting four bags of coffee which I wasn’t expecting and which I unfortunately can’t guarantee for you.
If anything, waking up early on Saturday morning to do this. (If you can consider 9:00 “early” for a weekend.) For you non-early birds, they offer noon classes on Wednesdays until the end of this year.
Not having the coffee grinder to grind the free coffee beans.