We needed to do it, to explain the why and the how of a new flavour wheel, as well as the decisions that have led us to create this tool designed to make the difficult path of describing coffee profiles somehow easier, in the most accurate way possible, and to be able to transmit it in an objective and understandable way to the biggest number of people.  

A good start

The basis from which we started to create the new flavour wheel that some of you already know and (hopefully) many others will get to know, was the flavour wheel developed by SCA, used as point of reference for several years, an evolution we understood necessary, to all of you that share and spread coffee culture. 

How we have developed it.

  • No negative flavours or aromas

We have discussed and decided it should serve roasters, baristas and consumers. Its purpose, to transmit the profile of each coffee in the most accurate and didactic way possible. The first step has been to eliminate all the negative notes of the previous wheel.  As its new use and purpose is to qualify and describe the profiles of some of the best lots within the chain, we thought that at this point the very same lots being analized have already been submitted to several steps of selection and have been positively validated by producers and importers. 

  • From aromas/flavours to aromas and flavours.

Is an aroma different from a flavour? For sure, they are our two main tools when it comes to evaluating the descriptors of a coffee, but we understand that they are two sources of information in pursuit of a common goal, which is to identify the descriptors evoked by a cup in our sensory memory. We have two tools, smell and taste, but only one purpose. We have shared with many other tasters and we have understood and concluded that the wheel has to be a tool to identify in the most objective way possible notes, beyond the discussion if it's predominance sits in the aroma or flavour realm. 

 

  • Twice the amount of positive notes

We were convinced this was essential in order to recognise, to calibrate and to describe in a correct way different coffee profiles. We also recognize the tremendous effort and enthusiasm of the whole coffee community in putting together aromas/flavours that are considered "stable" today. Some that are commonly associated with certain varieties, or origins and processes. We added more, and others. Always trying to step away from generalization and adding as much details as possible. 

  • A concentric colour code.

Correctly defining a descriptor is deductive, this is how humans think and this has been the reason behind our design. To associate and contrast and to do so accompanied by a tool that activates our smell, taste and sight!  An aroma-flavour leads us to a first level of sensory memory, and excludes others. By following the path towards the centre, we combine different circles and different groups of colors for an easier deductive reading. An easy way of "finding" a descriptor, which so many times is just at the tip of our tongue, efficiently. 

 

  • It is adaptive, not imposing

Sensory memory, taste and smell, are unmistakably associated with specific cultures, with the flavours and aromas common to that place in which we grew up and live. That's why we have designed this wheel to be a model, not a strict foundation. We can change "pieces", remove and add notes, so that it adapts to best transmit coffee in different cultural environments, so we are able to understand what each coffee wants to show, using different words. 

  • The fifth circle.

We do not believe that coffee should live in a world that is isolated,  gastronomically or culturally. We believe that it is just another piece of the puzzle, with its own value and virtues, ready to exchange in a transversal and vertical way. This first version of a new flavour wheel is just a start, a flexible base for new and more detailed levels of description. To add the fifth circle is our greatest motivation, and with it knowing that the whole chain is focused in improving and stabilizing more aromas and flavour as part of our common sensory memory. 

A conclusion.

Our new flavour wheel is a working and training tool to describe the profile of flavours and aromas present in coffee. It is not different from a table full of data, perhaps easier to visualize, and a necessary support point in everyday training and dissemination of our coffee culture. It is an orderly visualization of a common language: "taste", in order to communicate, from farmer to consumer, without being imposing, but orientative instead. 

Very grateful.

 

It has been a long way, not without difficulties and challenges. One we have obviously just started. 

We have not taken these first steps alone. We would like to thank all of those part of our coffee family. Farmers, pickers, cuppers, and everyone involved in the many steps of processing, shipping and transport companies, roasters, baristas and coffee consumers that move our world, day by day, with their increased demand for knowledge, leading us to improve. To all of you, our biggest thank you for making this possible. 
 

 

 

 

A request

All we can do is ask you to help us make it grow with your suggestions, versions, proposals or modifications that you understand will improve it. It is designed to be a living tool! We also want to spread it and use it as if it were our own, which is what it is, to bring coffee culture closer to other cultures or make it grow in other areas, as we are faithful to: living is sharing; we add, better with a cup of good coffee ;).

 

Axel Simón / Giovanna Rocha / Timur Dudkin