Once a year, Green Mountain Coffee employees get the chance to try out for the Tasting Team, a group that provides a second level of scrutiny for quality assurance and new product testing in our Coffee Lab.
As someone who tried to prep for it, let me tell you: it’s a test you can’t prepare for – no flashcards, mnemonic devices, or cramming will help your nose pick up on the subtle earthiness of green peas or your tongue define the intensity of a salty slurry. You can help yourself by avoiding the urge to put on musk cologne that day or eating an onion pie the night before, but when it comes right down to it, this is a test for your senses and nothing else.
While you can’t study for it, you do get to know exactly what’s on the exam. The screening itself tests the sensory sensations of olfaction and gustation (smell and taste for those not accustomed to organoleptic jargon). You taste sour, salty, and sweet slurries to rank intensities, identify solutions, and determine the ratios of blends. You also take the French based tool kit called “Le Nez Du Café” (the nose of coffee), where you identify a fragrance (from vanilla to rubber) in a blind exercise.
In order to pass the screening, you must get a passing grade for each of the three graded sections (100% being one passing grade for the first taste test).
Oh, and did I mention? There’s no coffee involved in this test.
Despite my initial concerns, this was one of the most entertaining and edifying tests I have ever taken. In under an hour, my taste buds were completed saturated and my nose a twinge runny, but my mind was a buzz with a new mantra: “Tasting Team. Tasting Team. Ra, ra, ra!”
So it should not be unexpected that I jumped for joy when I received my results: I made it.
As a new member of the Tasting Team, I’ll be learning more about coffee, teaming up with other members of the company, sharing ideas and insights on our coffees, and actually impacting product decisions.
If that’s not a perk of working here, I don’t know what is.
Take a look at the Tasting on our Flickr account for full descriptions here or in the slide show above.