The Ritual of Formal Cupping
Author | groundwork coffee Date | May 10, 2016
While there are many differences in cultural preferences, age, and language among the jurors, what we have in common is just as easy to point out: One of our commonalities is the dance of the cupping ritual. As the International Cuppers, we are treated like visiting nobility. An entire cadre of "Porters" stands by, ready to dose, grind, set the cups, pour the water, fill and refill the spoon-rinse water, etc. Our job is just to cup, skim the coffee crust (that forms after water is poured on the grounds), record and score our sensory impressions, and keep the %@&* out of the Porters' way — they are very serious about what and how they do what they do.
The first time I experienced this sort of being "taken care of," I was uncomfortable. I think Americans, in general, approach things in an egalitarian way. Maybe I take it too seriously, because I’m the guy who bags his own groceries at Trader Joe's. Hey, the cashier is already busy, right? In any event, it took me a while to realize that, even though the Trader Joe's staff is grateful, the cupping staff feels differently. When a cupper injects themselves into a part of the dance where their partner needs to lead, it’s taken as a comment on the perception of their competency. Or, to be more specific, on their lack of competency.
The biggest show of respect one can give to the team is to let them do their part and acknowledge a job well done, when it is, and to gently correct (or ask the table leader to do so) when it is not. The Porters are an indispensable part of the competition process.