Here are some of the things I consider to be crucial elements for a successful cupping:
Follow a protocol. Working with a guideline ensures consistency and fairness. Examples of protocols for judging specialty coffees are the Specialty Coffee Association protocol and the Cup of Excellence protocol. For commercial coffees, a number of customized protocols exist per country depending on how the coffee is traded.
Cupping is an activity that relies on all senses and faculties. In addition to sensory appreciation, it is a decision-making process. Clarity of mind, wellness of body, and a peaceful spirit ensure accuracy.
Assess what the coffee presents. Make a judgment based on the attributes rather than your personal preference. Reward positive attributes and give constructive criticism for the negatives.
Hone your skill in and out of the cupping room. Exercise your olfactory and sensorial perceptions everywhere you go. Taste, smell, and judge (or score) everything palatable.
Coffee is global. Any opportunity to cup coffee alone or with fellow cuppers contributes to growth and continuous learning that will complement your cupping instincts.
Each cupping session is akin to traveling to coffee origins. There is a possibility of discovering something different each time.
Every coffee has a story. Cupping is the process that discovers and validates the milestones in the long journey from seed to cup. Give an accurate account.
Mbula has worked extensively in East Africa on the African Fine Coffee Associations Taste of Harvest competitions, including the start up and design of this program. She is an arabica and robusta cupper and has experience with Fine Robusta coffees from her work with CQI in Uganda.