Providing structure to the game of judging coffee


To some, coffee flavor is a game of guessing.

When coffee bags mention ‘sweet’ and ‘nutty’ flavors, perhaps you’ve been left scratching your head. But it’s more complicated than one opinion.

In order to provide structure to determining coffee flavor notes, the Specialty Coffee Association of America has provided incredible resources such as cupping standards and a flavor wheel.

While the SCAA has expert certified coffee tasters, this task can be done by anyone anywhere. Here is their flavor wheel – our coffee sampler can provide a good diversity of flavor profiles for you to try!

It is a common belief that flavor notes means that syrups were added to our specialty coffees. No!

Because of elevation, microclimate features such as weather and soil, and tree varietals, each individual coffee has unique flavor notes.

When coffee is well-produced, processed, and roasted, these flavors come naturally. Local variables like wind patterns, soil quality, sunlight, elevation, and other environmental influencers have much to do with the common characteristics of coffee.

Slight variables will effect the profile of the coffee. Even a coffee picked in outside of a specific region within the country of origin would have different flavor notes!

The Cupping Scale

Many packages claim a coffee to be ‘gourmet’ without proof. One solution to this is the standardized, unbiased cupping scale.

This is also how professionals agree on flavor notes of coffees.

A typical cupping scale grades up to 100. Experts at Cafe Imports grade these coffees on categories such as production, defect, & flavor. Specialty coffee must score above 80, and is considered Very Good.

Most of our coffee lots are built as region-traceable blend from coffees that cup between 84–87 on this 100-point cupping scale.

That means that according to science, our coffee is very good.

See the Cafe Imports cupping scale below:

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