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Cafe Imports Launches Groundbreaking Interactive Cupping Form, The Coffee Rose

cafe imports coffee rose

Cafe Imports photo.

A new Coffee Rose came to bloom this summer, courtesy of Minneapolis-based green coffee company Cafe Imports.

The company officially rolled out the groundbreaking professional digital coffee cupping form — technically a web-based app — called the Coffee Rose in April at the SCA Expo in Chicago. (See DCN’s complete 2024 Expo coverage here)

Involving an interactive digital flavor wheel, the Coffee Rose follows more than three years of in-house development, including approximately 1.5 years in which the Cafe Imports crew has been using the tool to evaluate every coffee that passes through the company’s warehouse doors.

“We do about 6,000 unique coffees a year,” Cafe Imports Director of Sensory Analysis Ian Fretheim, who led the Coffee Rose development team, told DCN in Chicago. “We blind taste and replicate about everything, so we do maybe 12,000 or 13,000 coffee table placements. So this had to be fast. It had to be efficient.”

Ian cafe imports

Ian Fretheim showing off the Coffee Rose at the SCA Expo in Chicago in April. Daily Coffee News photo.

The Coffee Rose is based around a Check All That Apply (CATA) system, designed both to provide a comprehensive overview of a given coffee’s attributes, but also to lower barriers for people who may be new to coffee cupping.

“We initially developed this as a tool to improve our internal processes,” Fretheim said. Then as I began teaching it to people in the organization, I found that it is actually an astonishingly good onboarding tool — people who are new to the company, but also who are new to coffee.”

Presented with an interactive flavor wheel, users can navigate to find scores of flavor descriptors, and each descriptor can be assigned an intensity. The wheel also opens the door to more specificity within attributes. For example, fruity might open up to blackberry, or, more specifically, cooked blackberry.

Additionally, the app is designed to mitigate bias by attributing consistent values to descriptors throughout different sessions and among different users. Users are also invited to add “other” descriptors that may be not specifically mentioned in the wheel’s built-in lexicon.

Beginning with a baseline reference coffee, which lands at 80 points, the app automatically generates a score on the 100-point scale based on the number and qualities (positive or negative attributes), as well as the specificity of attributes.

cafe imports

The Cafe Imports booth in Chicago. Daily Coffee News photo.

“On the sourcing side, it actually is really important for us to have a score, and for that score to have meaning,” Fretheim told DCN on the decision to associate the Coffee Rose with a 100-point scale. “The score needs to be consistent, it needs to be replicable and it needs to have meaning because a lot of the times we’re buying coffee, and it’s 86 or it’s 87 or maybe it’s 84, and there’s real value associated with that — real purchase premiums associated with that.”

The Coffee Rose app is free to use, and users do not need to be existing Cafe Imports buyers, although registration is required.

Cafe Imports has created a guide on getting started with the Coffee Rose here. The company is also hosting a webinar to explore the Coffee Rose on July 10

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