While there are many aspects to coffee that demand attention, for me the most important part is the consumption. For the ultimate coffee snob this is the part where you can grab a piece of paper and start the evaluation on a scale of everything from mouth feel to acidity, elevation and harvest dates, roast dates and water ratios, but before we get to that point … it would be more valuable to give a brief overview of what “tasting” coffee is.
Traditionally the tasting of coffee is broken down into three distinct areas. Olfaction, or experiencing the aroma of the coffee. Gustation, or experiencing the organic and inorganic soluble compounds. And then finally the mouth feel or experiencing the viscosity or oiliness of the coffee. In addition to these three, my hospitality background would also point out the importance of the presentation when “tasting with your eyes”, but making it look good is probably another topic all to itself.
For both olfaction and gustation, much of it will come down to how far you can develop your palate to distinguish the one element from another. The flavour wheel (yet another topic) is a great tool for this, guiding you along with standard metaphors to describe the coffee, but the best part about developing this skill is that practice makes perfect. Thus it is always time to order more coffee!
For the mouth feel, this is something that you are already likely able to discern from your consumption of other foods. You may however not be able to label your experience of coffee using “standard” terminology, so again, it is something else you can practice.
THIS is what enjoying coffee is all about (for me at least). Sure the punch of caffeine that coffee offers is a big plus for some (I wish it still did something for me), but compared to taking some extra time with each cup to smell it, swish it, feel it, experience the coffee… now THAT is drinking coffee.