Coffee cupping and le fooding

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In the current New Yorker (April 5, 2010), Adam Gopnik writes about the Le Fooding phenomenon in France (Annals of Gastronomy: No Rules! The new French school of food.)

Le Fooding is meant to be a composite of Food and Feeling. Fooding-istas define themselves as folks who reject the old French school of rules; break down the distance between chefs and diners; make space for true experimentation and innovation.  Traditional French cuisine is a highly evolved yet mechanical application of skill. Chefs admired by Le Fooding fans are just as skilled but more importantly they cook with their hearts and souls. If traditional French cuisine is a highly evolved science Le Fooding leans toward art.

The article reminded me of a recent conversation in our cafe about the different French bakeries in town. A friend of the house who’s attending culinary school loves a couple of the popular bakeries – one in West Seattle the other in Ballard. I share his admiration for their skill. And, believe me, I am a sucker for one of their extra-buttery croissants. There is another bakery in town, run by a couple of Japanese descent, whose line-up includes both the traditional French pastries and more unique explorations like green-tea muffins with red beans. This bakery showcases great skill and creativity in their assortment.

I’d like to say that here at Seattle Coffee Works we’re more on the Le Fooding side of our trade. At a recent cupping, one fellow cupper remarked how free-flowing our cupping was compared to another roaster’s more traditional cupping. At that roaster there was a whole protocol around cupping; the cuppers’ experience is structured around using different sense and discovering coffees along variables such as aroma, flavor, body, acidity.

Our philosophy is that you should cup and see what happens. By and large you know a coffee is good when the adjectives describing the coffee just keep popping into your head. The good coffee doesn’t let you stop talking about it. The bland coffee will be forgotten within minutes. I know that sounds banal. Yet that’s simply back to the basics. Just like Le Fooding, we don’t need a church of food, the bible of coffee to tell us how to feel about our coffee. We should be able to experience the coffee on our own terms, informed by convention only in as much as convention is helpful in sorting out our feelings.