Q&A with Canadian Cup Tasters Champion Sarah Ball!

Sarah Ball is Quality Control and Coffee Trainer at De Mello Palheta, and she just so happens to be the best coffee taster in Canada! Earlier this year, she competed in the Canadian Cup Tasters Championship and took home the top prize. She represented Canada in the international competition and finished sixth in the world!

Sarah Ball Cupping - Photo Courtesy of De Mello Palheta

Wondering what the Cup Tasters Championship is?

The competition is set up with eight sets of three coffee bowls. Out of the three bowls set, two of the coffees will be the same, and one will be different. As a competitor, you have to differentiate by tasting which cup is the odd one out. Whichever competitor identifies the most correctly in the least amount of time wins the competition!

We sat down with Sarah to hear about her experience and see if she had any tips on how to improve your tasting. You can listen to the podcast here or find an excerpt from our conversation below!

This month in The Roasters Pack, we're featuring the Miguel Rodriguez coffee. Last month we featured coffees from the same region - which makes for a fun comparative tasting and allows people to get a better idea of the region. Do you have any tips for people on how they can get better at understanding different coffees?

To be honest, if it's not your job, I kind of tell people “Just enjoy the coffee.” You're going to taste things that are different. But I think getting deep into the little similarities and differences and really thinking about it hard… I would just drink the coffee and really, really love it and just like it for what it is.

Sarah Ball Cupping at Cup Tasters World competition - photo courtesy of De Mello Palheta

If it's something that you're passionate about or you work in coffee and you want to get better at tasting... I think it is just about tasting coffees and thinking really hard about it.

Having a couple beside each other - really similar ones, really different ones - and thinking about how that feels in your mouth, what the body is. What are those higher, more acidic notes that you are getting? Trying to connect those with actual flavours in the real world to build taste profiles.

Do you have any advice for people who might want to try the Cup Tasters Competition themselves?

I think honestly the biggest help for somebody like myself that had never done the competition before was having people that had done it and setting up a fake version.

I think that's half the nerves… knowing how the competition works. Because there's little things about it. You can't lift the cup off the table. Otherwise it doesn't count.

I think that aspect to it was really good – running through it and especially doing a couple versions of the competition in a day. The quarterfinals and the semifinals were on the same day. I had about an hour in between quarterfinals and semifinals. I think that was a big thing: your mouth gets tired.

“A few years later, she decided to participate in the Cup of Excellence—and that first year she won! That really opened doors for De Dios, including relationships we’ve still maintained to this day” she continues on the exclusive award given to the farm that producing the best coffee within a region.

You can follow Sarah here on instagram!

Thanks to De Mello Palheta for kindly sharing the photographs here!

Sarah Ball Cupping CoffeesSarah Ball Cupping Coffees