Freda Yuan

The art and practice of tasting coffee is a complicated anomaly to the average coffee drinker. On one hand, there are cuppings (or at least there used to be!) where tasters slurp coffee loudly, calling out a host of bizarre words that are somehow meant to represent a flavor. On the other hand, there is the Cup Tasters Championship, perhaps the most exciting and easiest to understand coffee competition for the layperson. There are no judges scoring drinks you can’t taste; there are just groups of cups and the tasters have to find the outlier, the one with the dot on the bottom. The reveal at the end is one of the most fun, raucous moments in all of coffee sports.

Operating at an incredibly high level on both sides of the coffee tasting dichotomy is Freda Yuan. A three-time UK Cup Tasters champion as well as the third place finisher at the 2017 World Cup Tasters Championship in Budapest, Yuan is a member of the 2019 Sprudge Twenty class and an esteemed judge at London Coffee Masters. She is one of the best coffee tasters in the world, and frankly one of the most exciting competitors to spectate.

Freda Yuan Budapest
Yuan going 8 for 8 at the 2017 World Cup Tasters Championship in Budapest. Photo by Charlie Burt for Sprudge Live

And now, Yuan is sharing her world-class knowledge with Sip ‘n’ Slurp: A Guide to Expert Coffee Tasting. Published on her website, Yuan brings a new approach to learning how to taste coffee and delivers it in bite-sized chapters being released twice weekly.

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Meant for coffee professionals and the general public alike, Sip ‘n’ Slurp is a distillation of Yuan’s many years of sensory training, adding in part of her own personal history dealing with depression and bulimia to create a novel approach to the subject. This is an “understanding of how sensory and life can work together,” as Yuan describes it. “Sip ‘n’ Slurp is the result of my recovery, and I hope that my experience can light up the readers on not just a professional level but personal as well.”

The underlying principles in the book are rooted in Buddhism, Yuan tells Sprudge, with a focus on mindfulness in tasting. “Sensory can be a very personal thing and there is no right or wrong with regards to our own perception of taste. This can however prove problematic when seeking to communicate your experience with a specific coffee, especially when usage surrounding certain vocabulary can change from person to person,” Yuan tells us. “Sip ‘n’ Slurp provides enough correlation regarding sensorial language structure and cross-modal correspondence to support our day-to-day sensory communications. Ultimately it will enable more people to speak the same language, so to speak, when describing a coffee.”

Freda And Lem Judging Aga 2
Yuan and fellow judge Lem Butler taking a blindfold selfie with 2018 Coffee Masters champion Agnieszka Rojewska.

Publishing a new chapter every Monday and Thursday until all are released in mid-July, Yuan provides readers with her mindful approach to tasting as well as useful exercises to help with palate development. The recently-published Chapter 4, for instance, lays out the five basic taste categories as well as a test users can perform at home to familiarize themselves with these broader taste profiles at their most rudimentary.

In order to maximize its utility and get it into as many hands as possible, Yuan is initially releasing Sip ‘n’ Slurp: A Guide to Expert Coffee Tasting at no cost. Once every chapter has been published, the book will then be offered on a pay-what-you-can model. Yuan is still considering publishing a print version of her book, and the money raised from the e-book will be used to that end.

“There is no better time to publish Sip ‘n’ Slurp than now. One of the key teachings of the book is how to be mindful and slow down in order to deconstruct our experiences,” Yuan says. “I feel that this is the moment to share Sip ‘n’ Slurp and hopefully, the reader will be able to create a new perspective from the book.”

For more information or to follow along as new chapters of Sip ‘n’ Slurp: A Guide to Expert Coffee Tasting are released, visit Freda Yuan’s official website.

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Network and a staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

Top image via Freda Yuan

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