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Panther Coffee and Fabiana Carvalho to Explore the Cutting Edge of Sensory Perception


Workshops in Miami will explore how intrinsic factors affect our perception of coffee flavors. All images courtesy of Panther Coffee.

The coffee industry has progressed by leaps and bounds in terms of codifying the language used to describe coffee on the cupping table. The quality of coffee — and thus, in a perfect world, the value it commands — can be systematically determined and described now in more objective terms than ever.

All that said, there’s a plethora of research suggesting that coffee sensory perception as it stands today is only scratching the soft and squishy surface of the human mind.

“After a while in the coffee industry, sometimes you’re going through the motions and you’re just doing the day-to-day work,” Leticia Pollock, co-founder of the pioneering South Florida roasting and retail company Panther Coffee, told DCN. “But one of my favorite values, at Panther and in life, is to keep improving, to keep finding new things.”

In that pursuit, Pollock has been working for the past few months to bring one of the brightest minds in coffee sensory research, Brazilian neuroscientist Fabiana Carvalho, to Miami to publicly explore how our minds respond to coffee given various extrinsic or ambient factors.


Brazilian neuroscientist Dr. Fabiana Carvalho. Courtesy photo.

A series of coffee-filled sensory workshops led by Carvalho is coming to the Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management Biscayne Bay campus in Miami. Full-day tickets are $250 for the workshop, with three of them taking place on July 6-8.

Pollock said ticket sales thus far have suggested heavy interest from coffee professionals. Yet there has also been some interest from serious foodie types who simply want to delve deeper into the world of sensory perception, as well as some devout Panther customers.

“There are going to be so many good tasters in one room,” Pollock said. “I have never taken any of her classes, but I am positive that we are going to come out of that room as better tasters. That, in and of itself, will be valuable to us as a company.”

At the University of Campinas in Brazil, Carvalho is currently conducting research under the supervision of famed sensory scientist Charles Spence of the University of Oxford in the UK, who once asked the coffee world whether their brew tasted any different given changes in the background soundtrack.


Carvalho’s work involves scrutinizing the influence the innumerable extrinsic factors — think things like music, room temperature or the color of the coffee mug — to help us better understand the multisensory perception of coffee.

“In coffee industry, we [might] talk about how, when you travel to origin, coffee tastes different in the tasting room — in Nicaragua or in Panama and El Salvador. Why is that?” Pollock said. “Or, we barely include the visual other than in latte art. That’s a missed opportunity right there… This is the next level.”

For more on the event or to register, check out the Eventbrite page.