KATE McILWAIN lives every caffeine addict’s dream and takes up coffee tasting for a day.
The smell of coffee beans fills the air in Delano Coffee's North Wollongong factory and my caffeine-hungry brain spies rows of small cups filled with ground beans and brewed coffee tantalisingly laid out on the table.
I am here for a lesson in coffee cupping - the method used by coffee roasters to regulate the quality and consistency of their beans.
Before we are allowed to dive in and start tasting, Delano's head coffee roaster Drew Corbin explains why roasters and baristas partake in cupping.
"For roasters, this is our quality control and it's also used for sourcing new coffees and discovering new things," Corbin says.
"We do a lot of roasting experiments, then I taste my work to see what I've come up with - it's always a search for the best."
Coffee cupping in practice is a bit like wine tasting, where everyone stands around swirling, sniffing and - finally - sipping, but it is a bit more messy and undignified.
Along with about a dozen other amateur cuppers, I am instructed to first inhale the smell of coffee beans in each glass - which results in the grounds going up my nose - before splashing the freshly brewed coffee around with a spoon to release its aromas.
Coffee goes everywhere - but Corbin reassures us this is how the professionals do it.
The final step is to slurp up the slightly cooled coffee and swill it around in your mouth, making sure it coats your tongue for the full effect.
This is to allow the appreciation of the full difference between the varieties of beans . The flavours range from dark chocolate, toasty and tobacco tastes, to light lemony or grassy flavours and tasting them together, it is remarkable how different each coffee is.
"We inhale it first - dry and then brewed - and then taste it to see what kinds of flavours we can get through your nose, as opposed to what you can get through your tongue, then we compare and write down the different aromas and tastes," Corbin says.
At Delano, there are dozens of varieties to taste, from single-origin beans to house blends and even kopi luwak, which is coffee brewed from the seeds of coffee berries once they have been eaten and digested by south-east Asian civets.
Delano will hold coffee cupping sessions at its Montague Street premises over the next few months. For more information, phone 1300 656 842.