Cupping is a procedure used for testing by growers, roasters, baristas and coffee aficionados.
Coffee is ground coarsely then put into a small bowl. It is smelled to obtain a freshly ground fragrance. Next water is added, the aroma is evaluated again before the coffee in the bowl is left to slightly cool. When the coffee is cooler, a spoonful is slurped into the mouth, sprayed over the tongue to aerate it and assist in evaluating the quality.
As the tongue has different areas that pick up sweet, sour, salty and bitter tastes it is important in evaluating coffee to let the coffee saturate the palate. Body, aftertaste and balance are also important characteristics in evaluating coffee.
Beans from different origins, quality and roast levels will all show unique and different characteristics on the palate. When blending coffees the cupping process is used not only to determine the individual flavour components of each origin but also the interaction of each flavour profile when blended together.