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Know Your Coffee Descriptions

How would you describe your ideal cup of coffee? Dark and strong? Hot and sweet? While these generic terms may sound descriptive enough to you, you’re not actually using the correct terminology. This is something you may have discovered when looking to try a new coffee from your favorite coffee shop. 

coffee tasting

In fact, in the coffee industry, cuppers, growers, and roasters have established very specific terms to precisely describe any given coffee. With so many types of coffees available on the market, it makes sense to have such standards. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most commonly used lingo, so the next time you’re ordering coffee, or discussing it with friends, you’ll sound like an expert!



Similar to the dry yet bright sensation that you experience in the back of your palate and tongue when drinking red wine, acidity is a tartness or sharpness that adds a vibrant flavor to coffee. Acidity in coffee is not an unpleasant sourness, contrary to what you may expect. Some coffees that are higher in acidity are Guatemala AntiguaKenya AA, and Mexico ‘Spirit of the Aztec.’ 



Coffees that are considered mellow are full, well balanced, and mild without any strong taste or aftertaste. This means that they are low in acidity. Mellowness is most often found in washed Arabica coffees grown at lower elevations. A few mellow coffees are Monsoon MalabarHaitian Blue Mountain, and Irish Cream


Earthy/ Earthiness 

Some consider earthiness in coffee to be a delicacy, while others find it a flaw. Coffees that possess an earthy flavor have a rich aroma that is reminiscent of fresh plants and soil. It does not indicate that the coffee has a dirty taste. Coffees from BrazilEthiopia, and Indonesia tend to be characteristically earthy in flavor. 



Mild is generally used in reference to superior quality, gourmet Arabica coffees with moderate body, and balanced sweetness, and it lacks bitterness. The taste is a particularly sweet sensation on the tip of the tongue. Honduras ‘Silver Hills’ and Maui Yellow Caturra are two examples of mild coffees. 


These are just a handful of the terms often used by coffee professionals that you can now add to YOUR vocabulary. Tune in again to learn even more about the ever-exciting world of gourmet coffee! If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section, and we’ll be sure to answer them. Looking for a more exciting selection of gourmet coffees and teas from all over the world? Try some for yourself today at CoffeeAM!


Updated 6/16/2020

Originally posted 6/23/2016

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