An Evening of Sensory Deprivation at Clifton Coffee HQ

The Chefs’ Forum was delighted to attend a sensory deprivation session on Wednesday (6) September at Clifton Coffee led by sensory experts, Dr Hoby Wedler and Freda Yuan.

On arrival at the impressive Clifton Coffee Headquarters in Avonmouth (Bristol), a delicious aroma of freshly roasted beans the hospitality professionals met as they entered the purpose-built training facility and roastery.

The Chefs’ Forum was delighted to invite Chef Lecturer Mark Hyde-Catton of Gloucestershire College as it’s guest, with a view to inviting Clifton Coffee to work with his students via the highly successful Chefs’ Forum Academy initiative at the college, now in its second academic year.

Group shotOnce the guests made their way into the training room, they were encouraged to network and browse the beautiful display of coffee machines showcasing equipment from market-leading manufacturers: La Marzocco and La Spaziale.

The purpose-built training facility is used to deliver Speciality Coffee Association accredited courses in Barista skills, Professional Coffee Brewing and Sensory Skills where delegates receive industry-recognised certificates in coffee knowledge and proficiency, from basic to advanced level.

A short networking session preceded the practical sensory deprivation session, which saw around thirty coffee, food and hospitality industry guests gather for a fascinating evening of science meeting art and to embark on a journey of subjective perception and self-discovery.

Hoby and FredaThe group had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Hoby Wedler, who has been blind since birth. He earned a Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of California, Davis. He is the founder and director of Accessible Science, a California 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Hoby, a sensory expert, found his passion for food and drink and how they relate to the senses when he began hosting ‘truly blind wine and beer experiences’ in 2011.

Hoby has expressed a keen interest in working with The Chefs’ Forum Academy in Gloucestershire and Weston College to deliver lectures on truly blind tasting to the next generation front of house professionals.

Hoby recently co-founded Senspoint LLC, a sensory advising and education company. Senspoint partners with clients world-wide within the vertical sector of food marketing and design processes.

The guests were then introduced to a second speaker, Freda Yuan MBA, head of quality control at Caravan Coffee Roasters in London. Yuan is the current UK Cup Tasters champion, placing in 3rd in World Cup Tasters Championship this year. She is also a licensed ‘Q Grader’ at the Quality Coffee Institute and Authorised Speciality Coffee Trainer in both English and Mandarin.

The guests were in awe of both Hoby and Freda whose presence made the room fall silent as the audience hung on their every word – The passion for their individual areas of expertise was truly infectious.

Coffee cuppingAs ear plugs were handed out to the guests taking part in the sensory deprivation session, they were divided into four groups and cups were set out on the huge 3.5 x 2 metre tasting table in lines of seven cups, containing seven different coffees.

The session participants were then encouraged to make our way along the lines of cups, firstly smelling (with, then without earplugs) the different coffees, then tasting the different coffees (again with, then without earplugs).  This was done in silence and the outcome was an overall consensus being that when hearing was removed from the tasting experience, the delegates experienced a dulled-down version of tasting with their hearing.  They were also less aware of the variance in taste between the different coffees in the experiment.

Blind tasting 1The delegates were then blind-folded and a team of ‘seeing angels’ encouraged them to sniff three paper cups containing star anise, lemon and butter respectively. Blind tastings of three different beers from The Wild Beer Company: Jambo (imperial stout with Valrhona chocolate nibs and raspberries), Pogo, Modus Operendi and Millionaire (chocolate and salted caramel milk stout).

A blind tasting of three different wines supplied by Grape and Grind then followed. A white Italian, a French Chardonnay and a South African Cabernet Sauvignon.

Blind tasting 2Again, the group thought that when their sight was removed from the tasting experience, they were forced to think only about the taste, rather than the appearance when deciphering their individual favourites of the samples given.

The event was extremely well-received by all who attended and The Chefs’ Forum were very grateful to Clifton Coffee for the invitation to such a fascinatingly educational session.