An interview series with Zocalo's Coffee Roaster, Cathy Davies, and Administrative Manager, Alex Aimee Kist. In part four, Cathy shares more about how we customize flavor profiles here at Zocalo and gives advice to our customers who are looking to learn more about coffee!
One last time, Cathy!
Now, as a coffee lover myself, I have to know what your professional opinion is. What do you typically look for in terms of tasting notes?
The more important question is what do YOU look for in tasting notes? That is the question I am always trying to answer. I know what I like, but that’s just me. One of the things about coffee that I find very interesting are the different ways people approach and have tastes for coffee. Some people like only dark roast, some prefer light. Some want flashy and fancy coffees with unique processing techniques and some folks want coffee that just tastes like coffee.
Even behind the scenes here, Sara and I have dueling coffee tastes. She looks for sweet where I am ever chasing that elusive complimentary acidity. And don’t get me started on our differing expectations for holiday flavor profiles, where her bourbon spice Kentucky background squares up against my graham cracker, orange marmalade California. I always have fun with it.
Oh goodness, I have to side with Sara on this one.
It is so subjective. So I think, yeah, I am always looking for what our customers want when I look for tasting notes. What is a coffee that you will want to drink? Something that will make folks want to come in time after time for a good cup of coffee.
I think my favorite coffee profile to build is Shadow Cast, our daily driver. I developed this roast to taste like coffee should taste, rich with a full body, sweet chocolate notes, low acidity. Always smooth and sweet, never bitter. I want it to taste like diner coffee, but better!
Diner coffee, but good! Even just saying that made me feel all warm and cozy. There's an instantaneous sense of nostalgia in that.
For me this is a coffee that tastes so good, that I will reach for it every day. Even when I have access to one of those shiny, fancy coffees, I am still just happy with a cup of Shadow Cast.
Okay one last question before you go. How can our customers increase their knowledge and understanding of coffee?
On the micro-level, I would encourage folks to get outside of their comfort zones and expand their coffee palettes! Try coffees in different methods or types than you usually do. If you always choose a dark roast, try a medium roast next time. If you are always putting milk and sugar in your coffee, try a few sips straight up before using your creamer. There are several options on the internet, but if you search for ‘coffee flavor wheels’ you can use one while you are sipping your coffee to help direct and train your palette.
I think on a macro-level, one way customers can increase their knowledge and understanding of coffee is to take some time to understand how the supply chain works. This applies to most everything in our lives these days, but really tracking back where our food comes from and how it was sourced and how it gets to us. I think it is important to remember that coffee is an agricultural product that can be affected by any number of climate or political changes that occur at source. Broadening my understanding of the supply chain has really made me approach buying food in a different way. Being more mindful, shopping and buying locally when possible. And if I cannot, I am looking for sources that take into account the long-term impacts of that product.