Glossary of Coffee Terms
This is an alphabetical listing of special coffee-related words and phrases,
including types of coffee and also words that can be used to better describe
the flavors of coffee. It is a good place to start if you are new to coffee
or developing your own "coffee vocabulary". It will also help you to make
an educated choice when choosing which variety of coffee to try. (Or,
forget choosing--buy a Super Sampler
Basket or a Large Sampler Box and try one of each!)
A note on flavor: Flavors and aromas are as varied in coffee as they are in wine.
Naturally, coffee tastes and smells like coffee. But other flavors and
scents --such as chocolate, fruit, or flowers-- are what make coffee
drinking such an enjoyable experience. The next time you have a cup of
coffee, take a deep whiff before your first sip. Use your nose to give
your mouth a preview, to enhance the flavors on your palate.
Acidity is the liveliness in coffee. In everyday conversation, "acidity"
may sound unappealing, but in coffee terms it's actually a highly desirable
quality. Not to be confused with the ph level, "palate acidity" is the
brightness of flavor -- without it, coffee tastes flat and dull. All
good coffees have some acidity, but to varying degree. Acidity in our
coffees ranges from low (smooth) to high (lively or bright).
Beans from a coffee plant of the Arabica variety. They tend to have a lighter, more acidic
flavor, often with lemony or licorice notes. They are harder to grow
and therefore slightly more expensive. In America, most gourmet coffees
are Arabica; the other varieties of bean are severely underrepresented.
If you are used to drinking 100% Arabica coffee, you might like one
of our Arabicas, Creations #3 or #5. Or, try something a little bit
new by trying #2, which is part Arabica and part Robusta.
One of the four basic tastes, it is detected on the back of the tongue.
A certain degree of bitterness adds to the fullness of coffee's flavor;
also, it is a prominent aspect of very dark-roasted coffee. It is unpleasant
in high degree, especially if due to over-extraction.
Body can be described as "mouthfeel" -quite literally, how a coffee
feels in your mouth. It's an impression of a coffee's weight on your
tongue. The best way to determine the degree of body in a coffee is
to take a small sip and let it rest a moment on you tongue. Is it medium?
Full? Very full? "Body" in our coffees varies from medium to very full.
- Buon Me Thuot Highlands:
The Buon Me Thuot Highland area is named for its capitol city Buon Me
Thuot. It posesses fertile red soil, a subtropical climate, and spectacular
water features. Here is a nice
article on the Highlands area.
Full-bodied with a smooth and rich mouthfeel.
- Cà phê sua dá or Cafe sua
In essence, what people call Vietnamese coffee. It is a brewing and
drinking style, characterized by single-cup brewing at a customer's
table or home using a small metal drip brewer. Generally the sweetener
and creamer are provided by sweetened condensed milk.
Beans from a coffee plant of the Catimor variety. Catimor beans are
bitter and sharply flavored. They are used to "punch up" the flavor
of the multi-variety blended coffees such as Creation #4 Premium Culi
and the House Blend. Fans of strong coffee will like the extra kick
a Catimor bean provides. This is a rare
and exotic bean that we have not found anywhere else.
A sweet note reminiscent of candy or syrup produced by caramelizing
sugar without burning it.
Beans from a coffee plant of the Chari variety. Chari beans are difficult
to grow and, as far as we know, Trung Nguyen is the only company cultivating
them. They have a bright and fruity
A flavor reminiscent of unsweetened chocolate or cocoa powder.
A coffee with a clear and refined texture in the mouth; opposite of
Culi is the Vietnamese word for a phenomenon that we usually call Peaberry
in America. Normally, inside each coffee cherry there are two beans,
but in about 5% of the crop there is only one. Because the plant puts
more energy into the single bean, it develops a stronger and more intense
flavor. This single bean is called Culi, and they are highly prized
for their intensity of flavor. Trung Nguyen has three varieties of Culi:
the Culi Robusta, Culi Arabica, and Premium Culi.
A coffee with a parching or drying finish. It can also be called astringent.
An aromatic fresh soil or wet earth characteristic.
Espresso coffee is made by forcing boiling water through tightly-packed
coffee using steam pressure. The high heat and pressure produces an
extremely strong coffee with a wide flavor range, but also brings out
all the bitterness in the beans. Beans designed for expresso are generally
selected for their low acidity and mildness (hence their use in candy).
Because of its strong flavor, espresso can be mixed with milk or cocoa
to make mixed drinks such as Lattes without overwhelming the coffee's
A lifeless coffee lacking in any acidity.
All our coffee is sold fresh, and will stay fresh until the date on
the package. Many of the flavors in coffee are volatile and will degrade
upon exposure to oxygen; they become bitter and lose complexity with
time. After opening a bag of coffee, always squeeze out the extra air,
fold down the top of the bag, and secure it with tape or a clip. Ground
coffee will keep for a week or two, depending on how much air it is
exposed to, and whole bean coffee will keep about twice as long.
A prefix to good characteristics such as acidity, body, or range of
flavors, to indicate a strong character.
An aroma reminiscent of grass, dried herbs or grains, or fresh foliage.
A rounded and balanced coffee, sometimes with acidity and/or sweetness,
and without pungent or dry flavors.
Reminiscent of freshly roasted almonds, hazelnuts, etc.
A strong and penetrating effect on the palate.
An indicator of a coffee with depth and complexity of flavor, full body,
and an overall satisfying taste.
A bittersweet smoky or carbony flavor created by dark-roasting coffee.
It can sometimes be described as the taste of the roast, rather than
an inherent flavor of the bean.
Beans from a coffee plant of the Robusta variety. Robusta plants are
prolific and hardy, and will produce coffee even in terrible circumstances.
As a result, the poor plants have been forced to produce cheap, inferior
coffee in sub-optimal environments, giving them a bad name. However,
just because Robusta will survive in a bad place doesn't mean they will
THRIVE there. Trung Nguyen pampers their Robusta and allows them everything
they need, from natural drying to rich soil, to produce a sweet, deep,
dark flavor that some people swear is like dark chocolate. Trung Nguyen
Robusta is also surprisingly inexpensive for a gourmet coffee, and their
Creation #1 Culi Robusta is a delightful place to start your Vietnamese
An unpleasant bitter or acrid taste, created by brewing coffee with
A naturally occurring aroma of wood smoke, or a synonym for roasty.
A well-rounded flavor lacking any harshness or acidity; mellow.
Sometimes refers to the fermentation flavor that can occur in poorly
dried coffees, or general sour taste (sometimes prized in wilder varieties).
One of the four basic tastes, detected at the tip of the tongue. A mild
coffee with sweet fruity, caramelly, or chocolaty flavors.
An aroma suggesting spices such as cinnamon or allspice; also, a slightly
"hot" sensation in the finish.
Can be a positive, aromatic and sweet flavor note ("pipe tobacco")
but can also be referred to in a negative sense if the coffee has many
strong oils and a woody, tobacco-like smell or taste.
- Whole Bean (versus Ground):
Whole bean coffee consists of the beans in their natural state, after
roasting. They must be ground before they can be brewed. The whole beans
will keep fresh for longer after opening the bag, so if you do not drink
your coffee very quickly, you might try whole bean. Otherwise, ground
coffee is good for its added convenience.
A coffee with varying flavors from cup to cup, or odd, gamey, tangy