Baristas and Coffee Experts Packing Roundup
I am planning to give a talk on the Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting, the details of which are listed below, where I look at the philosophy and psychology as well as the history and politics of coffee-tasting, beginning with the confusions around the key concept of taste, and how the taste of the experts has favoured certain tastes, in both the so-called First Wave and present Third Wave of Coffee, that is, the acidic or fruity, as against the bitter. This is illustrated, in a hands-on way, by samples of two different coffees; which is then followed by discussion, accompanied by a third and rarely sampled coffee.
Time: Sunday, 6 March 2016, 10:30-11:30
Location: Gurman’s Tea and Coffee World
Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre
Fee: 10 euros, which includes 3 cups of coffee
Limited places. For further information, contact: ArtisanPhilosophy@gmail.com
This web-based Review was launched on 27 June 2015, to coincide with an article in the Irish Times of that date, entitled ‘Is bitter better? the philosopher’s coffee quest’ by Joe Humphreys. [See http://www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/food-and-drink/is-bitter-better-the-philosopher-s-coffee-quest-1.2256035.]
One effect of Joe Humphreys’s article was an invitation I received to debate publicly with Mr James Hoffmann, author of theWorld Atlas of Coffee, on the question: ‘Is Bitter Better?’. The public debate was duly held on 16 Oct. 2015, in the Funbally Stables, organized by First Draft, and was, I believe, live-streamed. Therefore, I feel that between the Irish Times article and the public debate, a kind of circle has now been closed, and so it seems a suitable moment to terminate, or at least suspend this Review. And this is also enforced by what I’ve said in the previous number about having other matters in hand.
The present number also seems an appropriate time to make a few points, one of which is that while the focus of Irish Timesarticle and debate was on my account of Sourism vs Bitterism in coffee tasting, my Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting is much broader in scope. For one thing, it sets the opposition between the two tastes in an historical context, which is broader than the Three Waves, as going back importantly into the 19th century, before the First Wave and the industrialization of coffee. It also presents a new theory of coffee tasting- glossed and elaborated by numbers 1 and 2 of the Review- that is more comprehensive than the present expert theory which was in large measure inherited by both the Second and Third Waves from the First Wave. And probably its main upshot is to recommend a way of seeing coffee tasting that can overcome the narrowness and partisanship of both the Second Wave Bitterists or the Third Wave Sourists, and so stop the swinging from one to the other fashion. As I put it at the public debate: To ask which is better, bitter or sour, is like asking which is better visual art or music.* Nor do I suggest we go for those a kind of golden mean and support those who are inclined to say ‘A plague on both your houses’, and so go for generic coffee, which is neither sour or bitter.
Indeed, I suggest that, in fact, the Bitterists and Sourists have in common a submerged wish to overcome or subdue the essential generic coffee taste, (which is really an aroma) which is so many coffees is overwhelming, even vulgar, in the way that the aroma of frying bacon is. How is this done? By the Sourist roaster stopping short roasting before the generic aroma has most fully emerged, or the Bitterist roaster letting it go on so to burn away much of the generic aroma – so a kind of divide and conquer.
Another, somewhat different point I would like to make concerns format and my realization, which was crystalized at the debate, about how public debates, like one-off lectures, tend to be polemical and treat knowledge like a commodity, hence their inferiority to one-to-one discussion, which, as I suggest in my little coffee book, is like the artisan approach to coffee. And this is how I would like to continue the work of the Review, at least for the immediate future with any readers who share my preference for one-to-one discussion, which could be done by using my coffee book as a workbook, an idea set out in‘Artisan Philosophy Workbooks and Method’, which also contains summaries of eight other workbooks; see https://artisanphilosophybrochure.wordpress.com/ Ideally, such one-to-one discussions would be in person, but could also through email and skyping.
*While I do not think that either one is better than the other, I do believe that some people are visual types and others tactual, the former preferring visual art, the latter music- so a typal division like that of the Sourists and Bitterists. I examine the visual and tactual types in Penult ΨΦ, chapter 2, which, like the coffee book, is available from Artisan Philosophy Workbooks.
This number of the Independent Review of Coffee-Tasting and Philosophy is short and about philosophy rather than coffee-tasting, because my work over the past month has turned from coffee to what many philosophers would- or at least did- agree was the most important question, namely, whether there is a continuation of personal consciousness after bodily death. This is the subject of a course of extra-mural lectures I am giving in Trinity College Dublin, beginning on 3 October 2015. For details, see the TCD brochure.
The lectures, like my talks on coffee, are based on a workbook, in this case, The Logic and Credibility of After-Death Existences, which, like the Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting, is available from Artisan Philosophy Workbooks.
Which can be accessed at https://artisanphilosophybrochure.wordpress.com/
The Logic and Credibility of After Death Existences is similar in appearance to my coffee workbook, but is longer, 120 pages, about 50,000 words, and is being issued in a limited printing, each copy numbered and signed by me, priced at 10 euros. It is also, like the coffee workbook, available at Books Upstairs.
Here is a summary:
I begin by setting out what I take to be the seven or eight most serious forms or scenarios of after-death existences; these are (1) a disembodied realm of Heaven & Hell; (2) reincarnated persons; (3) resurrection of bodies; (4) pure indivisible minds; (5) world of Gods, demi-gods or Forms; (6) Brahmin consciousness, Moksha or Nirvana; (7) dream-image world; (8) oblivion or extinction. Along with setting out the logic and some history of after-death existences [=ade], I also introduce the case against ade, as well perhaps their greatest critic, namely David Hume and his essay great against Immortality.
I then move into a more autobiographical mode, in which I briefly describe how I came to be interested in this subject, and how I came to see that those holding (8)- which is the present educated consensus, and was previously my position- are in the grips of an illusion- understood in the Freudian sense- an illusion of mortality. Whereas I came to see that options 1, 2, 4, 5 and 7, are more feasible than is now generally allowed; and scenario 3, which is most widely and fervently accepted nowadays, by Fundamentalist Christians and Muslims, turns out, ironically, to be least credible as well as tending to occlude the other more credible options.
Hence what is probably most distinctive about this work is that while its attitude to after-death existences is positive, this does not come from a commitment to any established religion- indeed, if anything, quite the opposite. Another distinctive feature of the workbook concerns dreams, and especially the crucial ideathat just as when we normally dream we do not know we are dreaming, so, according to various writers, the dead (at least the recent dead) do not know that they are dead. What follows from this idea is the hypothesis that the most plausible way to understand the next life is as dream imaging, which is, in fact, broadly held by various religious traditions and has also been developed in a clear way by the Analytic philosopher, H. H. Price.
In chapter four, I examine the account of reincarnation of the idealistic philosopher, John McTaggart, which I believe is, like the dream-image theory, plausible yet largely ignored by present-day philosophers and those interested in reincarnation.
Then in the next chapter, I look closely at the work of another largely ignored thinker, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and his extraordinary account of the next life, which presents in detail one of the three important sub-forms of scenario 1 (the others being by Plato and Dante), having argued in chapter 3 that combining it with Price’s account of the next life as dream-image can enhance both theories.
Looking back on what has been said in chapters 1-5, and glancing very briefy at what is presently the most popular source of ade, namely Near Death Experiences, or NDEs, I then try to reach a conclusion about the credibility of ade.
- 1: I am devoting this number to a new blend from Lavazza, introduced only this year, 2015, partly because the blend is interesting in itself, but also because it illustrates some of the points I’ve made in the previous two numbers of this Review and more systematically in my Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting.
The new blend is called Intenso. This is how it is described on the packet:
INTENSO Medium/dark roast
Lavazza’s experts have carefully selected the finest coffee beans from three continents to offer a distinctive blend: Robusta beans from Latin America, Africa and South East Asia provide intensity, a full-bodied texture and a lingering dark chocolate finish while Arabica beans from Brazil add a touch of nutty notes.
From information supplied by Lavazza UK, I understand that Intenso is made up of 80% Robusta and 20% Arabica beans.
I first encountered the new blend when I was given a sample packet outside the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre in Dublin, which I used on a number of occasions over about three weeks. I then got a full, commercial packet from which, on my first using it, I experienced somewhat different results. I begin with my experience using the sample packet, §2, which I recorded before trying the commercial packet.
- 2: Judging from the colour of the dry grinds and also from colour and opacity of the liquid, and from my taste of it, I would say it is indeed darkish roasted, but not very dark roasted, so about 6-7 on my Taste Line (see Phil of C-T, pp. 16-17), which confirms the medium dark description on the packet.
I would also add that the taste is generic but on the bitter side of generic. Hence it is likely to appeal to Bitterists and to what I call Americanos, i.e. those who like generic or just plain coffee. And conversely, it is not likely to appeal to Sourists, especially to Third Wavers, and for the following three reasons: (1) because being in the generic to bitter range, it is not going to have the sour or acidic taste; (2) nor is it going to have much subtle aromas, such as are displayed on the Aroma Wheel, since much of these would be burnt away by darkish roasting. And this lack of aromas is compounded in this case by the fact that so much of the coffee is from Robusta beans which are known to lack even the potential for aromas as in Arabica beans. (3) And I should also mention that having little or no potentiality for aromas, it therefore lacks the variety, complexity and subtlety of light-roasted Specialty coffees. Moreover this lack is compounded still further, since the Intenso is in the generic range, so the central and distinctive coffeol or coffee flavour is dominant and therefore blocking any subtle aromas, favoured by Third Wavers. In line with this, I did not find the ‘lingering dark chocolate finish’ or ‘nutty notes’ mentioned on the packet.
But for me, these deficiencies count for little, since as a Bitterist, my preference is not for sour or acidic tastes or subtle aromas, but robust bitter tastes and mouth-feels. So I am positive about Intenso, and intend to continue drinking it. I like its concentrated and largely simple character, which, I suppose, is what many understand by intensity and full-bodied. I find it bitter, although a little too mildly and flattishly bitter for my taste. I should prefer if it were harsher and rougher, and so more an assault on the palate, and not as smooth as it is.1
I should also mention that I am positive about Intenso because I have noticed no adverse somatic effects from drinking it; so no change in breathing, for example shortness of breath, nor any sense of inner racing, or any unusual awareness of breathing or heart beating, or any shaking, which I think can come from coffee that is either too lightly roasted or too darkly roasted, because in the latter instance too burnt or carbonized. So I think there is nothing toxic or nasty about this coffee.
I would say it is a fairly simple and straightforward coffee, which I suppose one should expect from Robusta beans, and which I value, but again I have to concede that for the Third Wavers simplicity is not especially valued, as it points to what they would probably say is a boring, Supermarket coffee, and, of course, a Supermarket coffee is just what Intenso is. But I would dispute that it is boring. For drinks can have simple tastes, as water and milk have, without being boring.
So Intenso is not pretending to be what it is not. It is not a specialty coffee in the present, accepted sense; although it is somewhat special in being composed largely of Robusta; since most coffees containing some Robusta have, I believe, vastly more Arabica than Robusta. So it might be of interest to those who want to try something new in that respect.
In short, I am happy to recommend Intenso to bitterists and Americanos, and those interested in trying a largely Robusta based coffee.
- 3: I now move to my first experience of the Intenso from the commercial packet.2 Here I should mention that in preparing my coffee I use the Japanese V60 filter.
Straightaway, I noticed that the coffee seemed stronger and probably more syrappy, also probably rawer (and so more in line with what Robusta is said to be like). I also experienced a kind of mild pulsation, focused in my head and chest, and that the coffee continued more physically stimulating than what I had experienced from the sample and this went on for at least 15 minutes. I would also say that the coffee was also less simple than from the sample pack, and more an assault, but not a welcome one, at least for me. (However, I suppose that others might find what I have described an agreeable buzz.3) On the positive side, I felt that it did get the dark chocolate taste mentioned on the packet.
So what explains the difference? Here are four possibilities. (1) that I was in a different physical and/or mental condition. (2) it could also be explained because I used a greater quantity of grounds than from the sample packet. (3) It might also be that as it was a newly opened packet, the coffee was fresher and more volatile. (4) It could also be that there is some variation between batches. (I note that the dates on the sample packet and commercial packet is different; see my note 2 below for details.) So then the difference in my experience would have come from the coffee itself and not from me or its freshness.
Partly because I was disappointed by the different experience I had in my initial use of the commercial packet of Intenso, but even more because being clear about what I experience lies at the very heart of my philosophical approach, I was keen to taste the coffee again from the commercial packet; which I have now done a few times. My conclusion is that the disagreeable sensations were almost certainly the result- or mainly the result- of my using too much coffee grounds- so reason (2); for using less grounds and so making it weaker has seemed to eliminate those undesirable sensations and possibly also improved the taste by making it less concentrated and syrappy.
From this, I recognize that I should have been more careful in registering more precisely how much grounds I used. But I didn’t know when I first used the sample that I would be writing a formal account of it for this Review. Nor do I see how, even if I had done so, that could rule out variables arising from testing at different times- so reason (1)- or differences that might come from actual variations in the coffee, as in (4), which might arise from the storing or roasting or sourcing of different batches of the same coffee blend.
1: I think that probably more people prefer rough to smooth coffee than is supposed by coffee companies, who seem to take smoothness as evidently and invariably an intrinsically positive feature of coffees. To be sure, I realize that it seems odd to say that I do not like smooth coffee, whereas I like rough and harsh coffee. But I think if one is trying to be clear and objective about one’s experiences, one needs to resist being taken in by the positive as well as the negative emotive force of the operative words; and this seems especially necessary with words about tastes, where there are few neutrally descriptive words at hand, as I think is so with smooth, rough and harsh- the first being emotively positive, the latter negative.
One way to make this point clear is with the following example:
Jack is pig-headed. Jill is stubborn. Mary is firm. I am strong-minded.
Here it seems plausible to say that the descriptive element in all of these assertions is the same, and that it is only the emotive element that is different, going from very negative to very positive.
2: On the sample packet, which is described as not for sale, there is also the following data concerning weight, coding, date:
50g, 1.7602 c/LOPE 90 30 04 2017.
On the packet of the commercial packet there is the following data:
Au 26 Ar 30 12 2016 226.8g Net per Alimenti 9112/09/14.
3: I understand that there are tee-shirts which have printed on the front: If you are not shaking, then you have not had enough coffee.
Contents: Introduction Sect. one:
- 1: Distinguishing Coffee-ism and Tea-ism
- 1.1: Retronasal Olfaction
- 1.2: Dualism and Eastern Monism
- 2: Monotheism, Pantheism and Polytheism
- 3: From Berkeley to coffee and tea tasting
- 4: DB Notes
Sect. three: Review of James Hoffmann ………………… In the first number of Independent Review, I said that in ‘the next issue or post, I plan to review James Hoffmann’s recent book, the World Atlas of Coffee, to be printed in section three; continue my account of the Tea and Coffee types, by drawing on Okakura’s great Book of Tea, and his idea of Tea-ism- and my idea of Coffee-ism; and also give an account of how I, a specialist in the philosophy of George Berkeley, came to be working on coffee-tasting.’ So this second issue has items in sections one and three. ………
- 1: I have been asked to explain more fully how tea and coffee drinkers differ, from a philosophical point of view.
First I should say that MY philosophical point of view combines philosophy with psychology, by which I understand the science of experience; and it is experience which is where I begin. After that, I try to make sense of the different experiences- in this case the various tastes of teas and coffees- which I find point to differences in experiencing and experiencers, and hence to different types, from which I then try to show that certain religious and ethical consequences follow. So what experiences distinguish tea and coffee drinking? The basic coffee experience is of the distinctive coffee flavour, which can be experienced externally as a smell but also as a taste in the mouth, which is really the same as the smell but misperceived as a taste. And this can be shown by your plugging your nose when you taste a coffee, for then what you thought was a taste disappears, which shows that it was really a smell. But almost as important as this distinctive coffee flavour (of the coffeol oil) are the two true tastes of coffee, i.e. the bitterness, which is the leading characteristic of Second Wave coffees, such as Starbucks and Costa, and the fruity or sour tastes of Third Wave coffees, which unlike Second Wave coffees, also contain a variety of subtle smells or aromas, which have been burnt away by the dark roasting of the coffee beans, which is the way Second Wave coffee companies produce the characteristic bitter taste of their coffees. To be complete, I should also bring in the third kind of mouth experience, which is neither of smell or true taste, but of the tactual sensations in the mouth, such as the heaviness or smoothness or viscosity of the coffee.
- 1.1: But to keep things simple, we can leave these out here and move to the tea experience, which is almost entirely of a variety of smells or aromas. And here I should mention that probably the main thing which distinguishes the experience of tea is that, unlike coffee, there is nothing which all teas have, i.e. nothing like the distinctive coffee or coffeol flavour. So there is no one flavour or aroma that is common to Darjeeeling, Keemun, Pu-er, Oolong, Assam or green tea, etc. Nor do true tastes play a significant role in the tea experience. To be sure, all teas come from the same physical plant, the camellia. But that is not experienced. It isn’t psychological or subjective, it is what we know to be its physical or objective nature, so not something experienced in the mouth, as are the various smells, which constitute the various kinds of teas, which, as mentioned above, are smells that are misperceived as tastes, by what present-day taste psychologists call retronasal olfaction, which is a smelling in the mouth, which can be illustrated in the following diagram.
With the help of retronasal olfaction, which was only clearly recognized by taste-psychologists in the late 1980s, I think I can also clarify an underlying difference between the tea and coffee tasting types, a typal difference which goes back to Aristotle. This is the distinction between the distal and contact senses, which was obscured when smelling was linked to tasting, by most investigators, as the two chemical senses, as against sight and hearing- the more objective or external senses. And yet it was, of course, known that we can smell things at a distance, by sniffing or orthonasal olfaction, as it is now called. What Paul Rozin showed in a pioneer article of 1982* was that smells, unlike the data of the other senses, are unique in being received in two ways, through the nose and also in the mouth, although registered in both cases by the same physical medium, namely the olfactory epithelium, as can be seen in the diagram above. And because the retronasal smells are perceived in the mouth, with the tactual qualities and true tastes, they are conflated with the latter and believed to be tastes. Yet that they can and do exist separately is shown, I believe, in the experience of anosmics and ageusiacs, those respectively without any smells and those without any true tastes. And while smells in the mouth are closer than those perceived outwardly by the nose, say in sniffing a rose, they are still at a distance, still not contact or touch experiences. Hence the sense of smell- and so tea-tasters- fit into the distal type, and so in the generic sense type with sight and hearing, which accords with the great variety and complexity of all three of these distal senses. Whereas taste- and so coffee-tasters- go with the contact senses, which is shown in their very limited or even dual character, as can be seen in the other modes touch or contact, such as hot-cold, rough-smooth, light-heavy, etc. *P. Rozin, ‘Taste Smell Confusions’, in Perception and Psychophysics, 1982, pp. 397-401. I hope that I have now made clearer the basic tea and coffee experiences, for it is from those different experiences that we get the key typal differences. So coffee drinkers tend to be more interested in the (true) tastes, bitter or sour, whereas tea drinkers are interested in smells or aromas, especially the retronasal kinds, which I call mouth-smells. And there is much more subtlety in the smells, since, according to taste psychologists, there are more than 1000 distinct smells, whereas there are only 4 true tastes: sweet, salty, sour and bitter; although some add a fifth called umani. Now one thing which seems to go against what I am saying here, but actually confirms it, is what I call the British & Irish tea mystery, that the British & Irish preference in tea is not for subtle aromas or any aromas but for a robust bitter black tea, modified by a little milk and sometimes sugar. But to make a long story short, what this shows or showed was a preference for a tea that was more like coffee when there was no suitably strong bitter coffee available, which was the case before Starbucks and Costa became available in the 1980s.
- 1.2: Going further and again cutting to the chase, from the basic experiential differences and preferences of tea and coffee drinkers, we can then move to more philosophical or even spiritual or ethical differences between coffee and tea drinking. In China and Japan there has been a long-standing interest in the connection between tea and philosophy and religion, especially that of Taoism and Zen Buddhism, which is probably most accessible in more recent writers such as Okakura and D.T. Suzuki.
Here I like to mention what Okakura says in his Book of Tea, about how tea (and hence Tea-ism) is different from the other great drinks of civilization. For (as he says in chap. one) it hasn’t the ‘arrogance of wine, the simpering innocence of cocao or the self-consciousness of coffee’. So Okakura’s insight is that tea and tea-ism in not having the self-consciousness of coffee or coffee-ism, is Buddhist rather than Cartesian. For not only does it not find a true essential self in the Cartesian cogito, i.e. in self-consciousness, but it believes that the self, or self-hood, needs to be recognized as an illusion since it is at the basis of desire, the source of suffering which works against enlightenment and release from of suffering. So Descartes’s attainment of certain knowledge in the cogito, the certainty that he is a thinking thing, would be utterly abhorent and rejected by both Hindu and Buddhist philosophers. The typical Eastern experience begins in a pluralistic way, with the eager pursuit of variety, especially of pleasures, such as was the Buddha’s early life. But, following his encounter with suffering, he eventually achieved enlightenment by recognizing that all appearances and variety are really one and futile. So there is no fixed essence either in the world, or in the individual contemplating the world. Thus in one famous Eastern image, the sage or mystic doesn’t know if he is a man dreaming he is a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he is a man. And this way of thinking seems nicely expressed in the experience of tea drinking, how it can be of green tea, or Darjeeling, or Pu-er or Oolong or Keemun- teas with an almost endless variety of flavours, but without any generic essence or fixed point, such as coffee has, first in the one pervasive coffeol flavour, which can be both smelled and tasted, then in the two true tastes, sour and bitter, which differentiate its essence, and only then in mouth-feels and mouth-smells, other than that of the coffeol. So it is in this way that a helpful connection can be made between tea and what Okakura calls Tea-ism and with coffee and what, following Okakura, I call Coffee-ism, and so by extension the Tea-ist and the Coffee-ist types. Ultimately, for the enlightened Tea-ist, there is the realization- as I mentioned above- that the apparent variety of life is an illusion; for as Schopenhauer, the great interpretor of the Eastern mind, tries to show, it all comes down to a circular path, with three elements: desire, with brief moments of satisfaction, followed by boredom, leading to more desire, and so on and on. Elsewhere Schopenhauer pictures this circular path strewn with hot coals, although with some small portions without them, which we humans, walking bare-footed, try to remain on as long as we can, deceiving ourselves into thinking, when we are on them, that life is or can be good. That the Tea-ist is deeply pessimistic comes out in the Hindu hope of overcoming individual person-hood and desires by assimilating with Brahmin or impersonal existence, and the Buddhist even more radical idea of total release from existence in Nirvana, in nothingness. Whereas in the Christian and Islamic world (where coffee was discovered and developed) the ‘good news’ is that man is going to survive his death and live eternally. And it is surely suggestive that, after being discovered in the Islamic world, coffee was taken up in Europe in the 17th century at the same time as the development of the New Science, which added a new dimension to the optimism of Christianity, which has, I think, enabled the West to continue optimistic despite the wide-spread loss of religion. Consider, too, that while there has been no intrinsic improvement or development in tea-tasting, there has been with coffee-tasting. This is shown most strikingly in the invention of the espresso machine, a technological spin-off of science, which has been able to produce a qualitative leap in the distinctive taste of coffee- so a parallel to the dualism inherent in Christianity and Islam, where the individual person not only continues after bodily death but is enhanced or perfected in its future life. But, to repeat, what the Christian and Muslim regards as the ‘good news’- that my particular living body and personality is going to live eternally- is for the Eastern religions of Hinduism and especially Buddhism the worst possible news. Okakura expresses Tea-ism’s pessimistic attitude to life, although in a relaxed way, when he writes: The outsider may indeed wonder… What a tempest in a tea-cup! But when we consider how small after all the cup of human enjoyment is, how soon overflowed with tears, how easily drained to the dregs in our quenchless thirst for infinity, we shall not blame ourselves for making so much of the tea-cup. Mankind has done worse. So Tea-ism brings one close to enlightenment and the over-coming of personality if not existence. In line with this, Okakura describes Tea-ism as ‘a religion of aestheticism’; so living a life of beautiful illusion as the closest thing to salvation. As he puts it: Tea-ism is a cult founded on the adoration of the beautiful among the sordid facts of everyday existence. It inculcates purity and harmony, the mystery of mutual charity, the romanticism of the social order. It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life. ………….
- 2: I now want to make use of the analogy of tea and coffee, and the relation between Tea-ism and Coffee-ism, that draws on a famous (but probably apocryphyl) story that when Abraham Lincoln was served a hot drink he is supposed to have said: ‘If this is coffee, please bring me tea; but if this is tea, bring me coffee.’
What I first want to suggest is that most people’s lives are lived in and like such a mixture of coffee and tea, where neither is clearly discernible; so they are not even aware that it is a mixture. Whereas Lincoln’s comment showed his insight into the nature of things, as well as his desire for purity. Perhaps the worst is where the mixture entirely disguises both elements, both the tea and coffee, as the colour green does in the mixture of blue and yellow. This would be like medium roasted generic coffee, or what I call Americano, which is balanced between sour and bitter. Sometimes one or the other prevails and dominates and tries to stamp out the other, even though the other is as pure and real as itself. But sometimes the mixture asserts itself agains the two extremes from which it is composed, as in the case of the drink Lincoln was given, and also in the case of green in my analogy. Now I want to apply this in the religious realm, to illustrate and comment on what is arguably civilization’s most fateful development, which occurred 2,000 years. This was when the monotheistic God of Judaism was taken up by Christianity, which then went on to establish itself as a world religion- which was enforced about a 1000 years later, when the monotheistic God was adoped even more centrally to the new religion of Islam. My suggestion is that the God of monotheism (of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) is, or was, like the drink Lincoln was served. More precisely the monotheistic God is a mixture of a belief in Nature or the whole world as God, i.e. pantheism, and the Gods of polytheism. So the monotheistic God has pantheism’s one-ness but also attributes of the polytheistic gods, such as wisdom, goodness and especially person-hood. To be sure, this idea that the two kinds of Gods which do exist fused to become the monotheistic God, which doesn’t exist, is bound to seem radical and speculative. But if I my suggestion is on the right track, then it would follow that, at least in the West, the monotheistic God has occluded the truly existing Gods of pantheism and polytheism, which would then offer a new way of seeing the emergence of atheism, especially in recent times- as a sign not of spiritual decline, but the very opposite. The present interest in monistic Eastern religions in the West indicates that pantheism is being taken more seriously. And it is to be hoped that philosophers and theologians might begin to take seriously polytheism, as understood by Plato, i.e. the existence of eternal persons, at least some of which are superior to human persons. ………………..
- 3: How, I have been asked, did I, a lecturer in philosophy, get into coffee and tea tasting. In fact, it stemmed from my work on George Berkeley, the philosopher I have specialized on, who brought me to TCD, where I did my Ph.D. on his philosophy, and subsequently published three books on him. Now Berkeley’s first philosophical work was his Essay towards a New Theory of Vision, 1709, which was mainly about the senses of sight and touch, and enabled him to argue for one part of his immaterialism or idealism, in short, that what we see is entirely different from what we touch and is mind-dependent.
Having worked on this side of Berkeley’s philosophy in a scholarly way- especially in my George Berkeley: Idealism and the Man (OUP 1994)- and later and more substantially in my Penult, 2010, I felt that to get a firmer hold on these senses and the senses in general, I should look at the two neglected senses, of smell and taste, which I felt I should do in a hands-on way by working with tea and coffee. Why them? Two factors: they each, but especially coffee, have a distinctive, pleasurable taste and, on account of their caffeine content, a power for mental stimulation. So they seemed a good way of getting into the empiricist method of doing philosophy- or as I would say, experimental or psychological philosophy- which Berkeley recommends and practices, as I try to show in myBerkeley: Experimental Philosophy, (pb 1997). And as it turned out, bringing in these neglected senses enabled me to make the correlations between tea and coffee drinking, as discussed above. ……….
- 4: DB Notes:
My Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting (34 pages, about 14,000 words) is available, issued by Artisan Philosophy Workbooks, plainly printed in A5 size and simply bound in stiff paper covers, and aiming (in line with the artisan approach) to be useful and solid, rather than fancy or fashionable. Copies can be purchased directly, at 4 euros each, from Gurman’s World of Coffee and Tea, in the Stephen Green Shopping Centre, Dublin 2 and from Books Upstairs, at 17 D’Olier Street, Dublin 2. Copies can also be sent at 5 euros each, including postage; or 3 euros per copy for orders of five copies and 2 euros for orders of ten copies, including postage in both cases. To obtain a copy or copies, write to Artisanphilosophy@gmail.com for information on paying and a Brochure of the other books available for sale from Artisan Philosophy Workbooks. Having retired from teaching Philosophy full-time at TCD, I am now offering to give talks on the Philosophy of Coffee and Tea Tasting, also one-to-one study of Philosophy. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org ………. Sect. three: Review: World Atlas of Coffee: From Beans to Brewing—Coffees Explored, Explained and Enjoyed, 2014. James Hoffmann’s impressive World Atlas of Coffee is not only informative, even encyclopediac, it is also very attractively printed and illustrated. His book also covers a lot of ground, with much space devoted to the growing, harvesting and processing coffee (in section 1), and even more on the different regions where coffee is grown (section 3), about which I have little or nothing say here. What I focus on are topics in section 2, especially what Hoffmann says taste, which is in general agreement with my own views as presented in my Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting– especially that the ‘longer a coffee is roasted the less acidity it will have…and bitterness will…increase the longer a coffee is roasted…’ (p. 50). What Hoffmann says about sweetness is intriguing, but I wish he had said more about it, especially on pp. 50 and 55, which also seems in line with my own view (although somewhat belied by what he says on pp. 64-5). I was also glad to see that, unlike most books on coffee, but not tea, he brought in retronasal olfaction (p. 64). But I wished he documented some of his claims, for example about the variable effects of grinding on taste, (pp. 68f). I suppose I should also note, as I say in my book, that like many present-day coffee experts, I believe Hoffmann is prejudiced against bitterness in coffee; see p. 88. On the other hand, he has a huge amount of really valuable information which he communicates clearly and in a way that inspires confidence. Given my recent experience of some Robusta from Uganda, I was particularly delighted to read what he says about it on p. 12, that The coffee industry treated Robusta like an ugly sister to Arabica until a rather interesting genetic discovery was made. Once scientists began sequencing the genes, it became clear that the two species are not cousins or siblings. Instead it appears that Robusta is, in fact, a parent of Arabica. Most likely somewhere in southern Sudan, Robusta crossed with another species called Coffea euginoides and produced Arabica. This new species spread and really began to flourish in Ethiopia, long considered the birthplace of coffee. Fascinating, but again I wish he had provided a reference to this scientific research. Still on the subject of Robusta, I am not at all sure about his statement that ‘Some people will make a rather specious argument that a really well-produced Robusta coffee can taste better than a poor Arabica coffee and this may be true, but it does nothing to convince us that Robusta actually tastes good.’ Putting aside how a specious argument could be true, what concerns me more is Hoffmann’s reference to ‘us’, which again suggests that he is not a fan of bitter coffee. And in all fairness, I think we need to ask how many kinds of Robusta Mr Hoffmann has actually tasted. If I am critical here, I hope it might encourage readers to send me their critical comments, either on my Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting or material in sections 1 and 3 of this net-based Review, for section 2. ……….
§1: Introduction and Editorial Principles
§2: Letter to David Robson
§3: Background to Letter; also how to order The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting
§4 Paragraphs from Robson’s BBC article with glosses and notes:
Are you a Coffee-ist or Tea-ist?
§1: Introduction and Editorial Principles:
This blog, ‘The Independent Review of Coffee-Tasting’, is being set up, in the first instance, as a result of an interview I gave to the BBC journalist, David Robson, which appeared on the BBC web-site, ‘Future’, on 18 May 2015, and the interest it generated. But the primary reason the blog is being set up is to examine the theory of coffee-tasting as set out in my little book, The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting- which, with the blog, is also being launched at this time.
When David Robson contacted me initially about a talk I was about to give on the subject, he asked if I would answer three questions about my work on coffee tasting. The letter printed below, in §2, contains my responses to his questions, as well as providing the background and filling in relevant detail to Robson’s article.
However, before printing the letter I emailed to Robson, I need to say a word about the format of this blog and its principles, so what I think distinguishes this coffee blog. In a word, it is its INDEPENDENCE- from roasters, baristas, coffee sellers, whether of the so-called Third Wave- of specialty coffees- or the Second Wave companies, like Starbucks or Costa- so from the present experts and generally-accepted expert knowledge. Hence I am prepared to praise some inexpensive supermarket coffees in preference to more intrinsically superior and expensive Third Wave coffees, as explained in my Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting. And yet I go along with Third Wave artisan approach, especially its emphasis on education and making the expertize gained over the years available to the interested, lay public.
But while I see myself as supporting the artisan approach, my focus is on the the individual drinker/taster of coffee, not the roaster, barista, or expert tasters employed by coffee companies. In this respect, I go back to an older philosophical tradition, shown for example in Schopenhauer, who instead of valorizing the artist or producer- as his student Nietzsche does- takes up the perspective of the perceiver or experiencer- what Schopenhauer calls (appropriately for our subject) the person of ‘good taste’, and I might call the artisan taster.
I also need to note that my aim is to issue the Independent Review of Coffee-Tasting and Philosophy- or Review, for short- as if it were a printed Review, issued at regular intervals. So I intend to add and up-date it on one day each month. Like many philosophical journals, forthcoming numbers of the Review should have three sections: the first containing main articles; the second discussions; and a third reviews of books and coffees. I welcome articles, comments, discussion, reviews of books and coffees from readers, which might be printed. These should be sent directly to me, that is my email, which is email@example.com. So I, as editor, decide what to print in each monthly issue; so there is no concurrent discussion, as in most blogs. The idea behind this is to slow things down and hopefully make the Review more reflective and substantial- more like the old-fashioned philosophy reviews and journals.
In the next issue or post, I plan to review James Hoffmann’s recent book, the World Atlas of Coffee, to be printed in section three; continue my account of the Tea and Coffee type, by drawing on Okakura’s great Book of Tea, and his idea of Tea-ism- and my idea of Coffee-ism; and also give an account of how I, a specialist in the philosophy of George Berkeley, came to be working on coffee-tasting.
§2: Letter to David Robson:
7 May 2015: You ask three questions, which I deal with in the order you mention. To answer your first question about the kind of psychology I use in my work on coffee, I think I need to say a word about modern scientific psychology and the three stages it has gone through in the past hundred years, which began with  the introspective stage, circa 1880s-1920s, usually identified with Wundt, then  Behaviorism, 1920s-1960s, developed by J. B.Watson, then, in the late 1960s to the present,  that of cognitive-neuro. Now I draw very much on the first development, and particularly on the work of Wundt’s Anglo-American student, Edward Titchener, and his use of introspection and also his general understanding of psychology and how it fits with the other sciences. I also use Francis Galton’s work on mental images, and the way it was developed into the first modern theory of mental types, by for example Charcot. But here I also draw on psychological philosophers- especially Plato in his account of mental types in the Republic, and on Bergson, who also uses introspection, or direct experience, although he calls it intuition. (And another psychologist, who has influenced me and fits into the first, Wundtian stage of psychology, but is not seen in that way, is Freud and his key idea of the Fundamental Rule in Psychoanalysis, which is that the analysand must be aware of what he directly experiences, and then express it to the analyst.) So in my study of coffee tastes- which is actually composed not just of tastes but also of mouth-feels and mouth-smells- I use this experiential method taken from these various thinkers of first stage of psychology. And from this psychology I also get much of my theory of types, and so (as I try to explain below) my understanding of the bitter and sour taste types, which I represent in what I call my Taste-line, which is modeled on Galton’s scale of imaging from 0 (non-imaging) to 100 (photographic and eidetic imaging). My own, more simplified taste-line looks like this (but 0, 5 and 10 need special glossing):
Lightly roasted and sour Darkly roasted and bitter
Your second question gets me more into the content of my talk, where I use the historical structure of the Three Waves of Coffee, but I think I take it further and deeper in a number of ways. One way is to identify what preceded the First Wave, that is before coffee was industrialized, by going to William Ukers’s monumental All About Coffee, 1922. I see Ukers as the great champion of the First Wave, and the great critic of what preceded it, especially its preference for bitter coffee made with boiling water. So drawing on Ukers, but also on a more recent expert on coffee, namely Kenneth Davids, who like Ukers, wrote a key Coffee Book (5th ed. 2001) and also edits an influential coffee review. So coming directly to your question, I think that the pre-First Wave period favoured dark roasted bitter coffee, which was then superceded by the First Wave, of industrialized, light roasted sour, and (at its best) aromatic coffees, like the tinned supermarket coffee of my youth, which was successfully challenged by the Second Wave and the bitter dark roasted coffee of Starbucks and Costa in the 1980s. However now, for the past 15 or 20 years, we have had another thrust, a return of the preference of the First Wave, but with the difference that this Third Wave has gone small and artisan and more subtle, which is required if their coffee is to be a viable alternative to the still massively popular dark-roasted bitter coffee of Starbucks and Costa.
To summarize, the Third Wave places great value on what it calls acidic or fruity or lively coffee, which I see as sour under another description, which opposes the bitter coffees, for one thing because while they eliminate the taste flaws in coffee, they also destroy the subtle aromatic notes in coffee, which the Third Wave values as much as acidy.
But I also need to note that between these opposed tastes- that is the Second Wave bitterists and the Third Wave sourists- there is another type that needs to be brought in- a silent majority amidst the clash of the Two Waves- namely those whose taste is for just coffee or the essential caffeol oil aroma and flavour. And probably the majority of coffee drinkers are in this group. What they want is is plain generic coffee or balanced coffee, which is neither very bitter or very sour. And knowing that is the case, that is just what most coffee companies offers them.
Now, about your third question, how my talk could inform philosophy, I need to be even sketchier than I’ve been above, because I believe there are a number of different ways that philosophy can benefit from an understanding of coffee tasting. One way is to see that the historical development of coffee tastes, the swinging from bitter to sour, then to bitter and now sour again, reflects philosophy’s own historical swings, which are sometimes described as the scandal of philosophy, and which I think should be understood, as in the case of coffee, in terms of opposing types, i.e. first one becoming dominant, then being defeated by its typal opponent, and so on. To illustrate this, I can bring in a bit of history of philosophy through William James’s last philosophical essay, his ‘Bradley or Bergson?’, published in 1910, in which he posed a challenge to his fellow philosophers, that they should decide to go either the conceptual, Hegelian way of Bradley or the anti-conceptual and direct experiential way of Bergson, which James favoured and called in his essay the way of ‘non-“transmuted” percepts’. In the event, 20th century philosophy did go conceptual, but not in the old Hegelian mode, but the new Analytic mode of Russell and Moore in Britain, and Frege and Husserl on the Continent. But now I think that philosophy has another chance to go the experiential (and typal) way, inspired, if in a small way, by the understanding of coffee tastes, if philosophy is to have a chance of solving the great, but presently deadlocked, problem of consciousness. To see the deadlock in philosophy, I would say look at the ‘debate’ between those like Tom Nagel, on the one side, and those like Dan Dennett, on the other, which I see as representatives of two opposing types, like the bitterists and sourists I examine in my Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting. So the Dennettians and the Nagelians disagree, I would say, in much the same way as the Second and Third Wavers do.
Another very different way that coffee tasting can help philosophy can be seen by going to the classic work by Okakura, called the Book of Tea, 1906, in which he uses tea to get at what he calls Tea-ism, which he thinks expresses the Eastern way of thinking, shown especially in Taoism and Zen Buddhism, which he distinguishes from the ‘the self-consciousness’ of coffee. What I think Okakura has in mind here can, I think, be expressed by saying that, unlike Tea-ism, the essence of coffee-ism and the Western mindset, is dualism, whereas the Eastern is monism. So coffee has an essence, a taste that all coffees have and which distinguishes them, namely the coffeol oil aroma or flavour, mentioned above; whereas tea does not have any generic essence, i.e there is no one taste that all teas have; so, to compress a lot, for Tea-ism the great truth is not in the essence of things, but in One-ness.
One additional point which I should mention is that much of the talk I plan to give this Sunday, 10 May 2015, is based on a little book I am completing, called The Philosophy of Coffee-tasting, in which I begin by discussing what seems to be the first general book on Philosophy and Coffee. This is: S.F. Parker and M.W. Austin (editors), Coffee: Philosophy- Grounds for Debate, Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, which contains three essays which bear particularly on coffee tasting and which I look at. These are:
Kristopher G. Phillips, ‘The Unexamined Cup is not Worth Drinking’, pp. 34-45.
Kenneth Davids, ‘Is Starbucks really better than Red Brand X?’, pp. 138-151.
John Hartmann, ‘Starbucks and the Third Wave’, pp. 166-183.
With good wishes,
§3: Background to Letter; also how to order The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting:
To explain the background of my letter to David Robson, I should say something of the talk mentioned above; for it was from an announcement of that talk that Robson learned of my interest in the philosophy of coffee-tasting. The announcement or advert was as follows:
The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting
A talk by Prof. David Berman, TCD, in which he looks at the history, psychology and politics of coffee-tasting, beginning with the conceptual confusions around the key concept of taste, and how the taste of the experts has favoured certain tastes, in both the so-called First Wave and present Third Wave of Coffee, e.g. the acidic, as against the bitter. This is illustrated, in a hands-on way, by samples of two different coffees. Berman then goes on to argue that just as an appreciation of coffee can be enhanced by philosophy (in the large sense), so philosophy itself can be helped by drawing on the critical study of coffee tasting. This is then followed by discussion, accompanied by a third and rarely sampled coffee.
Time: Sunday, 10 May 2015, 10:30-12:00
Location: Gurman’s Tea and Coffee World
Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre
Fee: 15 euros, which includes 3 cups of coffee
Limited places. To pre-register, contact: ArtisanPhilosophy@gmail.com
Here I also need to say something more about my little book, The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting, and how it can be obtained. First, here is a summary of it:
This book begins by looking at recent developments in coffee drinking, especially the so-called Third of the Three Waves of coffee, and also the first book devoted to philosophy and coffee, Coffee Philosophy for Everyone, 2011. Probably my main criticism of the Third Wave and present expert theory of coffee tasting is- to put it somewhat dramatically- that while it does not throw the baby out with the bath water, it manages to look carefully at virtually every part of the baby but her face. Put more specifically: instead of focusing on the two actual tastes of coffee, i.e. bitterness and sourness, the Third Wave and expert theory regards bitterness as a flaw, while praising acidity or fruitiness, which I argue is in fact sourness under another description.
Moving into a more positive mode, I then present a more inclusive theory of coffee tasting which not only aims to bring back tastes to their proper and central place, but also shows the importance of taste types- the sourists and the bitterists- based on the two true coffee tastes.
Having offered what I think is an empirical or hands-on way getting into philosophy through coffee tasting, I then conclude by drawing on this work to support the empirical (as against the conceptual) way of doing philosophy, a way which was (unsuccessfully) championed by William James and Henri Bergson at the beginning of the last century.
This book- or perhaps I should say long essay or booklet, since it is 34 pages, about 13,000 words- is available, issued by Artisan Philosophy Workbooks, plainly printed in A5 size and simply bound in paper covers, and aiming (in line with the artisan approach) to be useful and solid, rather than fancy or fashionable.
The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting is priced at 5 euros per copy, including postage; or 3 euros per copy for orders of five copies and 2 euros for orders of ten copies, including postage in both cases.
To obtain a copy or copies, write to Artisanphilosophy@gmail.com
for information on paying and a Catalogue of the other books available for sale.
§4 Paragraphs from Robson’s BBC article with glosses and notes:
First, I want to express my appreciation of Robson’s interview-article- which can be accessed through this link:
-and also my feeling that Robson did a good job. But it isn’t easy to express someone else’s views on a complex matter, especially in philosophy, and so here, with his permission, I quote some portions of his article, inserting my own reflections and glosses in capital letters within square brackets. I also add a long note at the end.
Armed with a strong Americano – and an open mind – I ask him [David Berman] to lead me through some of his thoughts. The conversation that follows will explore the values of introspection and why coffee and tea drinkers are fundamentally different people. [I DON’T THINK THEY ARE TRULY ‘FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT’; RATHER THEY EXPRESS OR POINT TO WHAT ARE FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCES, ESPECIALLY THAT BETWEEN THE MONIST THINKING OF EASTERN PHILOSOPHY AS AGAINST THE DUALIST WAY WHICH CHARACTERIZES WESTERN THINKING.]
Peeling back those layers could therefore give you a better understanding of yourself and your inner world. “If you take coffee as seriously as I do – though I don’t think that’s necessary to do so [TO ENJOY COFFEE]– then the idea is to try to get to direct experience,” he explains. Coffee, he thinks, is particularly fruitful for this pursuit. “When we drink coffee, we are taking in caffeine, stimulating the mind, and making it more acute. You’re not in a mentally sluggish condition. You are in a state of [GREATER] clarity and distinctness.” [YOU ALSO HAVE A DISTINCT SENSORY OBJECT THAT YOU ENJOY, HENCE A GOOD OBJECT TO TRY AND GRASP THROUGH DIRECT EXPERIENCE.]
So I take a sip and try to absorb [MAKE DIRECT CONTACT WITH] the taste. [BUT THE TERM TASTE IS HIGHLY AMBIGUOUS. SO IT IS JUST HERE THAT PHILOSOPHY CAN ENTER THE PICTURE IN A USEFUL WAY, BY DOING WHAT IT DOES WELL, DELINEATING CONCEPTUAL JOINTS. ON THIS, SEE NOTE * BELOW.] The symphony of flavours certainly does seem more vivid – as if the conductor has suddenly turned up the orchestra’s volume. I’m also conscious of the way I can pick apart the different notes – the smoke, the rustle of silk across the tongue. It is indeed a “hard problem” when I consider how the brain constructs those many distinct “qualia” – instances of subjective experience which words can never express fully – and builds our conscious experience.
As I ponder that thought, Berman explains how his research has informed his understanding of the drink. All varieties of coffee will share a common note that comes from just one oil – caffeol. “It makes up a small portion of bean – just 0.5%,” he tells me – yet without it, the drink would not be recognisable as coffee. In contrast, he says, there is no single “essence of tea”; tea is made from a wide variety of compounds [AROMAS OR FLAVOURS], but no single one is essential.
Tea-ism versus coffee-ism
Berman proposes that coffee and tea therefore reflect two different philosophical outlooks. [‘OUTLOOKS’ IS A GOOD TERM, BECAUSE SUITABLY VAGUE AND MODEST] Tea is about the way many different flavour components complement each other, he says – recalling the Eastern concept that all beings are interconnected. Coffee, by contrast, is defined by that single key ingredient caffeol, [BUT ALSO THE 2 TRUE TASTES, OF SOUR AND BITTER, AND THEN MOUTH FEELS AND MOUTH SMELLS OTHER THAN THE CAFFEOL ONE] which stands apart from the other flavours – perhaps reflecting a Western tendency to draw boundaries. I have a feeling he might not persuade everyone.
Coffee’s single ingredient, however, can be deceiving. Taking a sip, I feel as though the distinctive caffeol flavour is firing up my tongue – yet this is an illusion. To explain why, Berman tells me to hold my nose as I take another sip. All I am left with is a faint ghost of the original flavour. “That’s one of the surprises in it,” he says. “You think you are tasting coffee – but if you engage in [SERIOUS] introspection, [DIRECT EXPERIENCE,] you realise it’s actually a smell that is misperceived as a taste [WHICH I CALL A MOUTH-SMELL].”
As coffee connoisseurs will tell you, that central motif doesn’t prevent baristas from composing many different variations around the theme. A light roast will allow the coffee’s acids to shine through, giving a “brighter” quality. In contrast, a longer, darker roast leads to the build-up of new proteins and enzymes inside the bean. These chemicals constitute the “body” of a coffee; they can make it feel heavier, more viscous, and they blunt the edges of the acid. [BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY AND ESSENTIALLY BITTER.]
This see-saw between two extremes might illustrate something deeper about human personality more generally, he thinks. He suspects that a taste for bitter versus aromatic coffee represents a fundamental [I WOULDN’T, AS MENTIONED ABOVE, SAY FUNDAMENTAL] mental “type” – you are either in one camp or the other, and you will find it very difficult to understand the other’s viewpoint. “What you find in coffee tasting shows in a number of important ways how people disagree about fundamental matters,” he says [YES, IT DOES HELP TO GET AT FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES AND MORE FUNDAMENTAL TYPES, AS FOCUSSING ON THE SMELL OR DISTAL SENSORY TYPE AS DISTINGUISHED FROM THE TASTE OR CONTACT TYPE- A DISTINCTION WHICH GOES BACK TO ARISTOTLE- BUT ESPECIALLY THE MONISTS AND DUALISTS. HOWEVER, FOR A FULLER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT I HAVE IN MIND HERE, I SHOULD REFER THE READER TO TWO WORKS OF MINE, ONE CALLED PENULT ΨΦ, THE OTHER THE LOGIC AND CREDIBILITY OF AFTER-DEATH EXISTENCES, BOTH AVAILABLE FROM ARTISAN PHILOSOPHY WORKBOOKS, WHICH HELP TO EXPLAIN WHAT I AM TRYING TO GET AT BY TALKING ABOUT TEA AND COFFEE TYPES.]
My conversation with Berman has certainly given me plenty of food (or drink) for thought. As I drain the last dregs from my mug, I realise that I haven’t taken so much pleasure in a cup of Joe for a long time. Even if you’re not persuaded by coffee’s value to philosophy, perhaps Berman has a point about the value of introspection [OR DIRECT EXPERIENCE] and contemplation [I WOULD SAY CONCEPTUAL REFLECTION, WHICH IS A WAY I BRING TO BEAR THE TYPICAL PHILOSOPHICAL INTEREST IN CONCEPTUAL CLARITY, FOR AN EXAMPLE OF WHICH, SEE THE NOTE * BELOW.]. When it comes to probing our inner experiences and open our minds to our senses, we’d all do well to wake up and smell the coffee from time to time.
`Note*: I think there are at least four concepts of taste which it is useful to distinguish:
1: taste in the most narrow and literal sense, which according to most taste psychologists are four in number, namely sweet, salty, sour and bitter, which are known to be true tastes, because they are still experienced when the taster’s nose is plugged.
2: So they differ from tastes in the wider sense, which is experienced in the mouth, but are usually smells, so for example, the so-called taste of chocolate or 7up, which disappear when the taster’s nose is plugged, so showing it is really a smell, misperceived as taste- what I call a mouth-smell, but present-day taste psychologists refer to as retro-nasal olfaction.
3: So there is a larger sense of taste, which includes true tastes and smells but also another important thing experienced in the mouth, which in the wine industry is called body or mouth-feels; and taken together these make up what taste psychologists often call flavour.
4: But apart from these three concepts (above) of taste, there is in an even larger use of the term taste, understood as the aesthetic sense, where we talk about those who have a taste for sweet things, or a taste for jazz or classical music. So here taste indicates type or mindset, or-to use Robson’s helpful term outlooks. So focussing on the subject in hand, I suggest that there are three tastes in coffee, or three coffee types. So some people prefer bitter coffee, others more acidic and still others coffee, who do not care for either very bitter or very acidic coffee, but something in middle, namely just generic coffee. And going further, I think it is also helpful to talk of a coffee types as distinguished from a tea type, although I would not say these are fundamental types, but point to them.
In my little book, The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting, I look specifically at coffee taste or tastes. Much of my book is taken up with sorting out the elements in coffee tastes, first (in chap. 2) where I criticize the present expert theory of coffee taste, then more constructively (in chap. 3) where I present my own constructive theory.
But the main differentiation I am interested in is that between the different types- so with respect to coffee (chaps 3 and 4) the sourists and the bitterists and those between- the source of which is their different experiences.