You've probably heard all about wine tasters, the guys who judge fine vintages. There are some equally talented palates in Port Allen. They are the cuppers at Community Coffee.
Before the coffee gets to your table, every blend, every bean has to be tasted. Matt Saurage, great grandson of Community's founder, says, "All of our blends require a lot of skill from people like Bill Weber and Carl Leonard, who can evaluate a coffee's characteristics and in their minds think what that coffee is going to taste like when it's combined with another."
This is where the skilled palate and nose of the cupper comes in. "Nice clean aroma," says Matt's dad, Norman Saurage, Community Chairman. "That's going to tell you a lot about what the coffee is going to taste like, and we like our customers to enjoy the same sensations of a great aroma that we sense here at the cupping table."
They sample the aroma in a process called "breaking," lifting droplets of fresh brewed coffee to their nostrils with the back of a spoon. But it's after the aroma has been checked out that the cuppers really get down to the nitty gritty. They lift their spoons right side up, this time filled with coffee. They slurp like a rude resident of a wild west boarding house, gingerly sampling a piping hot soup.
It's a process that's not as rude or frivolous as it might appear -- or sound. Norm Saurage, the kind of gentleman who would never slurp soup, stops slurping coffee and explains why the seemingly crude technique is necessary. "The idea is to break up the coffee into tiny little droplets or spray so that it just covers the surface of your palate so that you can taste just as much of it as you possibly can. That's the whole thing in slurping coffee."