Inspired by Facsimile, CupWise is a tasting software that makes it easier than ever to interact with other coffee cuppers.
BY YKER VALERIO
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos courtesy of CupWise
Before the pandemic, cupping and tasting in person were essential for specialty coffee. Many cafés worldwide offered open tasting sessions to industry members and the general public as a way to assess quality but to also invite the community to come together.
Coffee tasting is at the heart of specialty-coffee culture. Many coffee drinkers take a coffee bag more seriously when they find tasting notes and roasting dates.
Although we could say that lockdowns increased the pivot to virtual cuppings, James Hoffmann brought together thousands of people for the World‘s Largest Coffee Tasting in 2019. Then, James did it again in 2020, when lockdowns were already in place worldwide.
In 2021, the trend in virtual cuppings continued when Scott Rao and Ryan Brown started the Facsimile subscription service, featuring live online cuppings guided by industry experts.
This year, Vladimir Baranov has created CupWise, a tasting software that is arguably the next step in the virtual-coffee cupping experience. Keep reading to explore this innovative platform and what it offers the specialty-coffee community.
The Missing Spot in Virtual Coffee Cupping
CupWise takes steps to improve the virtual coffee cupping experience through interactive technology. Vladimir developed CupWise to enable coffee enthusiasts and professionals to share their love of coffee with others through interactive virtual cupping sessions.
For Vladimir, “When you want to share something with more than a few people, you need a good system. That‘s where the idea of Cupwise came. After being part of Scott Rao and Ryan Brown‘s subscription and live cupping service Facsimile, I wanted to be able to share my experience and the experiences of other drinkers.“
The Inspiration for CupWise‘s Features
Currently, the platform allows users to join real-time sessions with online discussion and video. But perhaps the most powerful CupWise feature is its customizable scoresheet. Vladimir claims that his experience with the Facsimile subscription service and the World‘s Largest Coffee Tasting inspired him. The sharing and discovery experience was there but somehow latent; every participant could jot down on paper their perceptions and leave a comment on the video chat, but the interaction was minimal. “Some things are only possible through digital aggregation. Paper can‘t do this,“ explains Vladimir.
CupWise offers something that wasn‘t possible in person before: a sense of togetherness through visual interaction. The word cloud feature in CupWise enables users to share tasting notes in real-time. At the same time, the scoring system lets them see how different their perceptions are about specific aspects of coffee.
“Coffee is something that brings people together. It‘s everywhere, but it‘s different wherever it is,“ says Vladimir. And such differences are fundamental for the growing interest in online live cupping. Moreover, while cupping scores usually refer to quality, it‘s hard to represent preference visually.
“A quality score doesn‘t tell me if I will like that coffee. Quality is objective and tells me which coffee is good, but preference is subjective,“ says Vladimir. And CupWise helps to share preferences and create a visual reference for that, unlike any other existing tool.
The Future of the Global Coffee-Tasting Community
“We‘re as big as our community,“ says Vladimir. Currently, CupWise has more than 3,000 active users in 80 countries. While users are different, the overall experience has been positive. “Cupwise is used in a number of ways. Our customers are both the ‘creators‘ or ‘hosts‘ of cupping. They are also roasters who‘ve integrated Cupwise into their web platforms to get feedback from customers. Customers are loving the fact that they can taste coffee together and see how their taste compares to others and participate in something together,“ says Vladimir.
Conceptually, the potential of CupWise is vast. Tasting notes and coffee bag labels can change depending on a shared experience and discovery of a coffee‘s sensory attributes. For instance, it‘s possible to challenge and bridge the language gap between coffee professionals and drinkers.
In practical terms, roasters can get higher quality and quantity of customer feedback. Without technology, it‘s almost impossible to know how several coffee drinkers appreciate the taste and aroma of a cup of coffee in real-time. Through CupWise, gathering this kind of information in live events enables companies to learn more about their customers‘ preferences and run data-based experiments. And for coffee geeks, it‘s fun too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yker Valerio (he/him) is a freelance content creator. After more than 10 years of working as a management consultant, he started the blog Bon Vivant Caffè to share his passion for specialty coffee.