Jessica Easto Breaks Down the Tasting Notes of S'mores

Jessica Easto Breaks Down the Tasting Notes of S'mores

The author of "How to Taste Coffee" talks expectations, effervescence, and finding joy and delight in drinking coffee.

No transcript...

Hello, friends—it’s been a minute. If you’re listening to (or reading) this in January 2024, you’ve probably noticed it’s been a few months since I’ve released a new podcast episode; it’s been challenging attempting to balance grad school with my other work. But I’m thrilled to kick off the year by sharing a conversation I had with Jessica Easto, author of the new book “How to Taste Coffee: Develop Your Sensory Skills and Get the Most Out of Every Cup.

This is Jessica’s second book on coffee (her first is called “Craft Coffee: A Manual”). She’s a book editor by day, and uses her skills to translate one of the most complicated aspects of coffee: What does it taste like, and how can we describe its flavors to others?

If you’ve ever picked up a bag of coffee and thought, “I don’t taste what this bag says I’m supposed to taste,” or frowned at the mention of an obscure tasting note—or even if you’re reading this now and thinking, “Doesn’t coffee just taste like coffee?”—then this is the conversation for you. Jessica makes tasting coffee simple, by breaking down complex scientific concepts into easy-to-try exercises you can do at home to train your palate. But more than anything, Jessica’s book inspires joy and excitement about truly getting to know your morning brew.

A quick note: We recorded this several months ago, before Jessica’s book came out in late October, so you’ll hear us refer to the book as a pending release. Happily, you can buy it now, as well as Jessica’s other book, by going to her website,

Ashley: Jessica, I was hoping you can start by introducing yourself.

Jessica: Sure. My name is Jessica Easto, and I'm the author of two books about coffee: “Craft Coffee: A Manual” which came out in 2017, and then my new book, “How to Taste Coffee,” which comes out at the end of October.

Ashley: Did you grow up with coffee in your life?

Jessica: I didn't really; my parents didn't drink coffee. And I have a little anecdote I talk about in the book that I sort of credit that as the reason why I've always preferred black coffee without like additives and things.

Because my only exposure was that my grandfather drank black coffee, Folgers. And the first time I was ever at a cafe and the person I was with ordered coffee, I was like, “Oh, I'll order coffee too.” And I had no idea how people drank it.

It came and they were like, “Cream or sugar?” And I was like, “Oh no,” because my grandpa didn't and then I quickly realized, because it was diner coffee, why people put cream and sugar in it.

[Laughs] But I just wanted to save face because I had my little hurt ego, and I never put cream or sugar in it. So I went from that to drinking the kind of coffee that was available to me at the time in my small town, which was not specialty coffee, or at least the kind of specialty coffee I drink now. We didn't have coffee shops and things in my town except for the diner and then eventually a Starbucks.

Ashley: What was that first sip of that diner coffee like? Do you remember that experience?

Jessica: Now I know that it was, like, strong and underextracted but it was, you know, watery and tasted very bitter—I'm sure they were using one of those big coffee brands, but it didn't taste great…

Which actually, to go back to what I was saying before, it was like a blessing because when I did have high-quality coffee for the first time, it was such like a marked difference without like—it was easy to tell the difference, because I wasn't putting cream and sugar in it, and I was just wowed by how different it tasted.

Ashley: Reflecting [on] some of my barista experiences—I think with consumers, we start with this idea of, “Okay, they'll have milk and sugar in their coffee, okay, maybe they'll do a little less; they'll graduate to black coffee.”

That's generally for me, at least the progression I would see with people, but to see you talk about the stark difference between diner coffee and then finally having specialty coffee is really interesting, specifically because you never had milk or sugar in either of those things.

I'm just imagining your face—like we've never met in person. As I research for these episodes, I'll do research and then your photo will come up and I'm trying to imagine you like sitting in the diner and like the face that you're trying to make, but then you don't because you're trying to save face and like the amount of emotions that go through your brain as that process is happening.

That's like the picture in my head I have of you.

Jessica: Yeah, I mean, I was—I probably just had my poker face on or whatever. And then it was like, “Oh, look how cool she is. She's drinking black coffee,” because, you know, you're young and don't know what you're doing—that has nothing to do with anything.

Ashley: That'll be your next book. The coffee as a signifier. And then you get to read some like weird like Baudrillard—I don't know if I said that guy's name right—or you can do some weird stuff there after that.

But let's go back to the fact that this is actually your second book. You wrote a book—the first book you wrote, “Craft Coffee,”—you mentioned that you're not a coffee person. Like, you wouldn't call yourself a coffee person. You've never worked in the coffee industry before.

What got you interested in wanting to write about coffee?

Jessica: I started making coffee like manually in college because I thought it was convenient and practical. It wasn't necessarily because I was like trying to perfect my coffee. I just thought, “Why should I buy a coffee maker when I only need one cup at a time?”

So I started doing that. And then in grad school when I met my now-husband, he noticed I had that, and he worked in coffee and he was like, “Oh, you do pourover,” because that meant something. But in reality, at that point, I had never been to like an independent specialty coffee shop or knew what kind of connotations like having a pourover setup in your house meant.

So he sort of showed me how to use it differently than how I was using it, which was just [to] dump pre-ground coffee into the thing and pour water over it.

And then when we moved to Chicago after grad school, we had lots of coffee shops to try and he managed a coffee shop. So I got like an insider look at that whole world. That's when I started to notice that I'm in a unique position to make this thing more accessible to people.

I think it's gotten a lot more accessible even since I published my first book in 2017. But there was this stigma I noticed: “Oh, I have to know all these things to be able to order coffee at this coffee shop ,and I don't want to look dumb or like I don't know what I'm talking about and I just want to get this or this.”

I thought there was like a space for me to sort of translate, if you will, methods of making coffee at home that specialty coffee people use in cafes.

Ashley: I love that you were able to identify that gap, because I think it's something that a lot of baristas and coffee professionals would identify, that there's this idea that specialty coffee feels off-putting to people, or people don't really know how to order it because maybe we don't make it so easy, etc. etc.

But it's cool to hear you say, “Oh, I see this gap in communication,” which is a theme in your second book too, and you're like, “Actually, I think I can speak to that. I can speak to that gap and help people maybe bridge that gap.”

Jessica: Yeah, because especially—I won't mention names, but I feel like this particular shop that my husband managed had a reputation for seeming like cold or like uninviting. And I probably would have thought that too if I had just walked in on my own, but then I met all the people and we talked and I was like, “There's such a different vibe here. Let me write it down because there are better ways to like, communicate things.”

Ashley: What was the process of reporting that first book like?

Jessica: It was much different than the second book because I already knew everything I wanted to say.

I had spent several years at that point making coffee at home and spending time in professional coffee spaces. Like I knew what I wanted to say and I knew the principles of extraction and stuff. So it was really a matter of just fleshing out some of the science.

Then I worked with my husband pretty closely to test all the recipes, which were based on recipes that we used at home or that he used in the cafe. So I was just padding out stuff I already knew innately by that point. Then I had him and other people in the, like, professional coffee people, read the whole thing or sections of it to make sure I wasn't, that I was like communicating accurately. And that I wasn't going to say anything that was way off-base.

Ashley: Did you get any feedback or compliments or maybe even criticisms that affirmed or maybe told you something as you were writing that book that you needed to know or maybe really shaped the book?

Jessica: I’ve only, to my face, received positive feedback for my book [laughs].

So while I didn't write it for professionals, I was very gratified to hear from many professionals about how helpful it was—either because they were professionals starting their coffee journey and didn't have access to—because, you know, like, training varies so widely from cafe to cafe—they felt like it was a good starting point for them to learn more.

I've also heard professionals say they recommend it to their customers because it's like a compact way to get all this information. I love when I hear stuff like that because I just want it to be helpful and useful.

Ashley: You approached the second book with kind of the same spirit. So your second book, the one that we're here to talk about, is called “How to Taste Coffee,” and like you mentioned, fingers crossed it'll get to you by the end of October, but wondering what prompted you to approach this topic about taste and flavor.

Jessica: So I sort of gloss over flavor in my first book because I think I wrote something like, “It doesn't really matter why you like coffee. Like you'll just know that you do and that's fine.” But in the intervening years, I was starting to have conversations with fans and friends about how difficult it was to like, go into a coffee shop and choose a coffee or a bag of coffee and know you were going to like it.

That seemed like different than the experience of going into a bar and ordering a glass of wine or a beer and knowing that you are going to like it. So I started like asking myself, “Why is that, why is it so hard to describe the flavor of coffee in a way that like, sets expectations and then meets those expectations?”

Ashley: Yeah. Expectation-setting is something that you talk a little bit about in the book, and I want to circle back on that idea. But I think what's so interesting about the entire topic of your book, “How to Taste Coffee,” is that taste is both really straightforward and incredibly complex.

There are moments where you talk about tastes like a binary. There are things: either you taste salt or you don't, or there's sweetness or there's not. There's factual basis for certain flavor receptors on our palates. But then there are moments where it's like, because taste is so subjective based on where you grew up or like what you've experienced in your life, that it's almost really difficult to articulate.

So how did you even think about how are you going to tackle something that's both laden in science but then also highly subjective and cultural and really depends on like how you grew up and what you experience? I have to imagine that was like something you thought about.

Jessica: Yeah, and I guess when I started researching—and I think I already knew this a little bit, but my research confirmed it—like the professionals have tools that they've developed to facilitate conversations about flavor.

So any sense is abstract and it's incredibly difficult to articulate with words. The example I use in the book is: If I asked you to describe the color blue to someone who's never seen blue before, how would you be able to do that? And I think flavor is very similar. So one of the tools the industry has is World Coffee Research's Sensory Lexicon where they've codified everything.

In order to talk about flavor, you have to have shared sensory experiences, and then you also have to agree to call those experiences the same thing. That's the only way you can really effectively communicate about flavor, and that's what the sensory lexicon does. And once I read about that, I immediately went to flavor notes, because those are the terms that consumers most often see on coffee bags, and they're probably the ones they gravitate towards most when they're trying to decide whether or not they're going to like coffee.

Those don't always line up. There's no standardized approach to flavor notes, which is one of the reasons why expectation-setting is so hard.

Ashley: Yeah. So what I think I'm hearing is, in coffee, we use these tools that basically make it easier for like us and coffee to communicate with each other. And not to say that everybody is using the sensory lexicon—not everybody is like sitting in the same room calibrating exactly the same—but there's at least some level of foundational knowledge between professionals where like, if I say this tastes like X, Y, Z, someone probably, who works in my industry, would, could probably guess what I mean by that.

But then, we try to do that with people who we're selling coffee to by putting that same note on a bag. But we have no shared experience. Like, how am I supposed to know that what you think a raspberry tastes like is what I think a raspberry tastes like?

Jessica: Yeah, for sure. And that discrepancy or like lack of context is one of the main things I wanted to address in the book. Just like, why is it so hard to come up with a flavor note? And there are many reasons.

Actually at the beginning, I was like, maybe I can solve this problem. And it turns out, I can't because it's just…

Ashley: It’s hard.

Jessica: It's just too hard and complex.

And coffee sensory science is relatively new. So people are discovering new things every day. We don't actually know how the thousands of different compounds that contribute to coffee flavor exactly interact with our palate and come up with this, the flavor notes, for lack of a better word. Even if you knew every single compound in a roasted bean, which we don't, but if we did, if you put it into a computer, it still wouldn't be able to predict how the coffee would taste when it hit our palate. Which is something that I think is wondrous and magical and fun and joyful. But it also makes it hard to communicate about it.

Ashley: Especially because you can't really—asking people to exist in ambiguity is very difficult. People want to know answers. I want to know answers. Giving someone a bag of coffee and being like, “This kind of tastes like some cool shit, here you go.” But without anything concrete is really scary, because we make decisions about what we like and what we don't like, and those kind of do exist in binaries in our head.

Not to say that everything does—maybe you like a certain thing only in certain contexts, maybe you don't. But I have to imagine it's one of the problems with flavor, is that we really, in our brains, wanna codify things.

Jessica: Yeah, I think that is one of the difficult parts. And I think just like some basic context that maybe we take it for granted that consumers know that they might not know: Coffee always tastes like coffee, right? Like you're never going to drink coffee blindfolded and not know that you're drinking coffee.

But then there's coffee plus all these other qualities and those are the qualities that we're talking about. So I'm not sure like when you just look at flavor notes without all that context that you actually are like, “Okay, so maybe it tastes like blueberry, but I understand that's like maybe a subtle note reminiscent of blueberry plus all these other things that I know is coffee.”

It makes it harder to single out the qualities in the cup when it's also always present with all of these coffee characteristic qualities, for lack of a better phrase.

Ashley: No, I see what you're saying. It's like I probably wouldn't be able to pick out like varieties of—I'm trying to think like maybe … like different varieties of apples, like really clearly in my brain, unless I was maybe tasting them side by side. An apple's always going to taste like an apple.

I do know the differences between like certain varieties, and there are ones that I gravitate to more than others, but at the same time if I'm not tasting them side by side, I might not be able to articulate how they're different because they'll always just first and foremost taste like an apple to me.

Jessica: Yeah, that's actually a really good comparison because—and this is why like one of the best ways to exercise your palate is to taste coffees and compare them to one another—because it's very hard, in a vacuum, to pick out flavor notes. But if you say have a washed coffee and a naturally processed coffee, you'll probably be able to tell the differences a lot more clearly if you have both of them side by side.

And there's also like another, I think, point of confusion is that the intensity of the cup characteristics can be way different in different coffees. One of the examples I talk about in the book is—well, first I say that coffee qualities are often very subtle and that's why tasting widely and often and maybe doing some of the palate exercises in the book will help you pick up on those.

But, occasionally a coffee tastes a lot like a different thing and the big example is like an Ethiopian natural, which often tastes like a blueberry—like to the point where I think the first time I tasted that I thought it was like flavored coffee like with an artificial flavor, and that always surprises people, and it's such a gateway into specialty coffee because I think some people don't actually believe that the coffee can taste in all these different ways.

Ashley: Like you were saying, that intensity is very different. Like in an Ethiopian natural coffee, it's almost unignorable. Like it's maybe the only thing you taste on first sip. Maybe you taste some other flavors on second sip, third sip. But then when you—even to go to the same country—if you have a washed Ethiopian coffee and someone tells you it tastes like peach and you don't get that same in-your-face peach flavor because it's a washed coffee and that flavor is very subtle, we don't really allow a lot of nuance for that when we give people flavor notes.

Jessica: Right. So yeah, there's like a lot of barriers of entry I feel like with flavor notes, and that's not to say I think that we shouldn't have them or something like that. I just hope resources like my book maybe can help people understand, set their expectations about flavor notes before the flavor notes set expectations for them, like, in a way.

One expectation is it's subtle, one expectation is if you've never tasted the thing before, you can't expect to taste it in coffee—if you've never tasted a walnut or something like that, you will never have a chance of tasting a walnut in coffee because you don't know what that is and you haven't committed that sensory experience to memory.

I think the other thing I like to tell people, and that the book talks about, is that there's this thing where there's not a consistent use of the sensory lexicon. And some coffee companies have their own lexicon that they use. And then there's all these like gradations and how people articulate things.

Some coffee companies use very specific flavor notes because whoever wrote those flavor notes—that’s their experience, but sometimes they're so individual that someone else cannot connect their own experience to that. So then it's what does this even mean?

One of the examples in the book was there's, there was a flavor note of effervescence, which the coffee was not carbonated. So it literally cannot be effervescent.

I think a swath of consumers would think possibly that it is effervescent with that flavor note. But even if you knew enough to be like, “That's not what they mean,” how would you interpret that as a consumer?

Ashley: Yeah, that's a good point. The idea that like, flavor notes—to be, like, reductivist about it—flavor notes are just like one person writing them down. Maybe it's one or two people at a roasting facility tasting coffees and being like, “Okay, this is what we think it tastes like.”

And then, those three flavor notes get printed on thousands of bags of coffee and go out to thousands of consumers with varying degrees of life experience or familiarity with a tasting note. A person who like sipped coffee maybe on an empty stomach, maybe on a full stomach, maybe they've never had this coffee before—there's so many things that could contextualize that person's experience, then we send it out to thousands of people.

There's no way that could be taken as fact, if that makes sense.

Jessica: And then there's two other complicating factors:

One, the roaster who was making the flavor notes roasted the coffee a specific way on a specific day. And one of the things I talk about in the book is coffee is unlike other products in that it has to be made in the moment—unless you're getting those canned and bottled coffees.

But most of the time, you're making it right there with water. And coffee is only coffee and water. And that affects the flavor. Time and brewing process and the flavor or the water you use all affect flavor, which may subtly change it from when the roaster tasted it and made those flavor notes.

I think there's this marketing lingo thing that happens too, where if something sounds really delicious, and I can't—I'm just speaking for myself, from the point of view of a consumer—but like, it seems to me that sometimes what gets on the bag is something that sounds really good, so you wanna buy it, but then if that expectation isn't met, it's having the opposite effect where people are like, “I'm not going to trust these things or like trust this roaster because it didn't taste anything like that.”

Ashley: That's a good point, too, that tasting notes are marketing tools.

And not to say that's a bad thing by any means. You have to sell coffee the way that you have to sell coffee. But I think to treat tasting notes as like a pure expression of, “That's what's in the cup that I taste,” not even to account for all the other factors, the fact that if I'm roasting here, someone else is making it somewhere else, all the conditions are going to be different.

Coffee has to be enjoyed within certain parameters. There's also the fact that tasting notes are tools to communicate with people, so we're going to use them as ways to communicate positively with them. And again, not to say that this is necessarily bad, but that's a factor that we have to consider.

Jessica: And after writing the book and doing all this research, I think it's occasionally a missed opportunity. Like I think there's a way to communicate with consumers that gets it closer to that experience of choosing wine or beer at a restaurant.

But I think that the other part of it is that a consumer has to know that if they want that they also have to like taste more consciously and maybe develop an interest in improving their palate a little bit. It doesn't actually take that much.

Ashley: I'm looking at the page right now too where you talk about that idea of effervescence and maybe what someone actually meant. They said effervescent, and you're saying that it probably has some like sour characteristics, probably citric acid, because citric acid is in a lot of soda, I assume.

Which I think is just really interesting, like how you break down—you not only talk about problems that you notice, like that idea of effervescence not really being a thing that coffee can have, but then you also break down where you think it comes from. So I guess that's like my segue into the idea of what are some ways that you think that we can get a little bit better about communicating what we're all tasting?

Jessica: I think the best flavor notes are, speak to the broadest sensory experience. Like a sensory experience that your consumer is likely to have, which maybe looks different in different markets. But a good place to start, I think, is the center of the taster's wheel. Because if you say fruit, that's a lot more common of an experience, of a sensor's experience than saying prune or something like that, or even dried fruit—someone will be able to latch onto that better than a very specific note.

So a lot of times I see flavor notes that seem like they're a combination of maybe several basic tasting notes. So one example is like s'more. I've seen s'mores like on a bag of coffee. But when you think about it as a consumer, and what I like teach people to do is, “Okay, what are they actually trying to say? A s'more is made up of graham cracker, marshmallow, chocolate, and then it's toasted in a fire. So maybe they mean it's sweet, has a cocoa flavor, and maybe a roasted note too.”

I suggest that until coffee companies make simpler flavor notes consistently, that maybe we can interpret a complex one by breaking it down and using the flavor wheel to get at what they may be trying to communicate to us.

Ashley: One that you break down that I really enjoy is pink lemonade, because pink is not a flavor. As might be obvious, but it also isn't a flavor that actually contributes anything to lemonade. It's an artificial coloring. So like when someone says pink lemonade, what are they trying to maybe communicate there that might be different from just, say regular lemonade?

Jessica: Yeah, or just saying citrus, sweet.

I don't know. There's like all these ways of break—I think that's a good example when I think someone picked that because it sounds tasty, which I understand the impulse. But then it's like a bigger determiner, I think, in whether or not someone's going to be happy with the coffee they choose is if they like to go back to what we're talking about—is their expectation met or is it not?

Ashley: Yeah, and I want to highlight an example that you use in the book: Is the idea that sometimes for us a flavor isn't necessarily about the exact flavor, but if we have an idea in our mind of what something is supposed to taste like and it doesn't taste like that, it's that mismatch that creates unpleasantness.

The example that you use is if you have a chip, if you have a potato chip, and it's not crunchy, the potato chip probably still tastes like potato. So it tastes like what we think it's supposed to taste like, but because it didn't meet that expectation that a potato chip is supposed to be crispy, we're let down.

So it's like that mismatch is where our idea that this doesn't taste good because it didn't meet my expectations—that's where that comes from.

Jessica: Right. So I'm actually the kind of coffee consumer that is always tasting different coffees. Like I don't think we generally buy the same coffee twice because there's so much to taste. And in our household, we just like tasting lots of different things, but I know a lot of people and readers, they prize consistency in coffee and they like want to be able to taste the same thing over and over again once they find something that they love.

And I know some people who would love to buy single-origin coffee, but because it's such a frustrating experience to buy one that they like, they'll just, they'll buy a blend because they know it's going to taste the same over and over again, which is fine.

But I just want—my mission is to make coffee as accessible as possible, and I don't want people to miss out on delicious, single-origin coffee because they can't ever pick one that they like. And I do think it comes down to flavor notes.

Ashley: Maybe we could play like a rapid-fire game of “decipher the flavor note.” What are people trying to communicate when they put a specific flavor note? I wrote an article about this, I mentioned it to you before we started recording, but probably my most-hated flavor note that I've ever read is “orange wine.”

That makes me upset and I still hate it. What do you think that they were trying to communicate there?

Jessica: So here's the thing. I think I've had orange wine once. And, but I don't remember what it tasted like. So I don't think I can even break that down because they're talking about a very specific type of wine. And I don't have the sensory experience to even guess what that means.

Ashley: That in itself illuminates the problem with that tasting note.

Jessica: And also it's such an obscure thing that I only know because I'm like, sort of into wine. But I think a lot of people would think it's like they've never heard of orange wine, right? So they would think, “Okay, wine made out of oranges.” I think that's like a logical thing that people could get from that flavor.

Ashley: I agree. I hope it tastes like orange Gatorade, honestly, when I see that. And this was like 2015, too.

Jessica: Oh, yeah.

Ashley: Yeah, it's a bad tasting note. It's still a bad tasting note. I'm trying to think of some other, like I think we lean into the realm of baked goods and candies, like name-brand candies.

So one that I've seen a lot is Watermelon Jolly Rancher, and that's one that I'm guilty of using a lot, so what do you think I'm trying to say when I say that?

Jessica: Okay. This is why it's so complicated, because coffee sometimes does have a candy—like that may be a better flavor note because in my research I learned that sometimes like there will be a compound in coffee that is the same compound that food scientists use in like the artificial flavor they use for certain candies.

I know off the top of my head that the artificial flavor that’s used for banana candy is present in a lot of coffee. So it may taste like an artificial banana to us because that's only, that's what we associate with it.

And then meanwhile, there may also be a compound that is found in an actual banana, but because it's not in the context of all the other compounds a banana has, it may not taste exactly like a banana. So that one's like actually pretty hard.

Ashley: I’m glad to know that mine might be rooted in reality.

Jessica: I know, but that's why it's—I am caught up in language and communication probably because like my job, like my day job is I'm a book editor. So I'm always thinking about communicating effectively and how words and combinations of words and punctuation and stuff affect the way the reader interprets something.

The goal is to make it as frictionless as possible and avoid any and all possible confusion. Because we're interpreting things just based on symbols that don't represent the whole of human experience or whatever. I just think there's a better way to communicate. And part of that is being, like, basic, and then explaining things on an elemental level to consumers and then consumers meeting professionals where they are. By practicing a little bit if they want to.

Ashley: I have a whole line of other baked goods I was gonna throw at you, but I also think that's a pretty good note to end on. Is there anything that you want people to know about you or to get out of reading your book?

Jessica: There's actually two things. I want to say one.

Ashley: You can only choose one. No, you can pick two of both.

Jessica: I don't want people to walk away from the conversation and think like that flavor notes are nonsense, because they aren't. I've had the experience of being in a room watching, or watching people like professionals taste coffee. I was, so my brother-in-law works at Stumptown, and when we were visiting him, we got to sit in on one of the meetings where they were like quality-controlling coffee that came from their East Coast roaster to the one in Portland, and it was amazing.

We got to taste the coffees, too, and I could tell what they were saying and stuff, but it was like magic and that is it's totally real that people can taste a bunch of stuff in coffee and that like these professionals have very sensitive palates and none of this stuff is made up. It's just that it's hard to communicate to consumers.

So that's one. And also I don't want to like, I don't want it to sound like I'm criticizing or like poking fun at any roaster that has these certain flavor notes on the bag because it's hard. Like I get it. It's so hard.

Ashley: And even, just to even prop up that point for you, I think one of the quotes that I wrote down [from your book] is that, “Flavor notes aren't really about anyone being right or wrong, it's just about it basically, it being a failure to communicate. Oh, what we've got here is a failure to communicate,” so it's really about trying to find ways that we can communicate better.

Not to say that anything's right or wrong, but how can we do this better, and how can we make things clearer?

Jessica: Right, and that sort of leads into my the second thing I want people to take away, is that tasting coffee is fun—like that's why I wrote the book, because I think it's such a fun exercise to taste different coffees and get better at tasting coffees and get better at talking about it with your friends or your barista.

It's just a worthwhile endeavor, and I think it adds to our appreciation for this magical, wonderful product that we call specialty coffee. It takes so much and I think consumers are realizing this more and more, but it takes so much to take that coffee bean and put it through all the hands that turn it into the coffee that we drink from our cup.

One way I think that we can honor that is by tasting a little bit more consciously and really enjoying the experience of the whole human experience of coffee flavor, which is, um, I get into the science a little bit in the book and I think it just makes it more wondrous and more magical and just a point of entry into a greater appreciation for specialty coffee.

Ashley: I had another tasting professional on the show a couple weeks ago, Mandy Naglich, and if you haven't listened to that episode, please listen to it for the folks listening. But one of the things that she talked about is that flavor and sensory memories are like time traveling. And that really stuck with me, the idea that you can create a memory for yourself through tasting something, and then you can come back to that memory because taste and smell and touch, which are the three senses that are tied to flavor, are so closely linked to memory that we can really almost access our memories again through developing these really powerful taste sensations.

So I think you're right there's so much pleasure to be had through tasting coffee and I appreciate that you help people along the way. So thank you so much for joining me today.

Jessica: Thank you for having me.

A newsletter and podcast about a thing you drink everyday. Interviews and articles about big ideas in coffee, the service industry, and collective action.