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Discovering Tea! A Tasting


     Gwen Russell, Coffee Analysts

Discovering Tea is a hands-on, introductory-level tasting workshop that will introduce you to the many levels of tea tasting experience.

The workshop is hosted by Bijou Fine Chocolate and is co-sponsored by Coffee Analysts of Burlington who will be lending the talents of their professional Tea Specialist Gwen Russell. Join her as she shares a wide palette of world teas and teaches you how to enhance your tasting enjoyment and appreciation of this classic beverage.

Participants will walk away with a newfound ability to taste more in tea than ever before, a foundational knowledge of the many different types of teas, and an ability to discern subtle differences between tea varieties.

Designed for anyone interested in enhancing their enjoyment and appreciation of fine food, no experience is required and the series is open to the general public.

Crack open the door to a new world of culinary delight!

Bijou Fine Chocolate is an artisan chocolatier and patisserie located in historic Shelburne, Vermont.

Education is a passion at Bijou and out of a growing demand from the local food scene they are launching a new series of workshops called Tasting in Technicolor. “Discovering Tea” is the first in this series of workshops.

While Bijou focuses in-store on chocolate, pastries and teas, the Tasting in Technicolor series will be venturing all across the food spectrum, with visiting speakers representing all areas of the culinary world.

Coffee Analysts is an independent laboratory specializing in physical, sensory, and chemical analysis of coffee and tea, founded in 1994. We don’t sell coffee and tea, we help manage quality. Our team specializes in the evaluation and improvement of coffee & tea programs throughout the global supply chain.

Class/workshop schedule: Thursday, November 12th from 7:00 to 9:00 PM

Cost: $33.00Circle-300x276

Cost description: 2 hour class

Venue name: Bijou Fine Chocolate

Venue address:   6221 Shelburne Rd.

Shelburne, VT 05482

Venue location: Google Map




Kevin Toohey








































New Tea Testing Services


                Traditional Cupping of Loose Tea

Burlington, VT, September 29, 2015

Coffee Analysts has created a comprehensive Tea Testing program to address quality and consistency issues for tea products.

Even after centuries of growing tea and brewing tea as a global beverage, there remain unanswered questions regarding tea standards and product specifications.  Coffee Analysts conducted extensive research with respected tea institutions, such as the World Tea Academy and the Specialty Tea Institute, to develop a dynamic tea testing program for loose tea, bags, sachets, single-cup and ready-to-drink products.

Coffee Analysts will conduct physical, chemical, and sensorial analysis of tea products using scientific testing equipment and published ISO protocols. Coffee Analysts’ staff will test for current quality levels, evaluate items versus product specifications, and conduct comparative analysis between different tea products.

Spencer Turer, Vice President states, “Our independent analysis of tea products has been welcomed by many professionals in the tea industry. Gwen Russell, our Tea Specialist, is leading our staff in the development and execution of our new tea testing programs.”

A complete list of our Tea Testing services is available at



Your Coffee Needs a Regular Quality Tune-up



            Gwen Toohey at the cupping table

Coffee’s performance is the true measure of quality.  Branding, promotion, and merchandising will give your coffee initial bursts of speed, but only aroma and taste will provide the endurance and reliability necessary for your coffees to succeed.

Harvest time is important.  Coffee professionals know that each country harvests coffee at different throughout the year; even within a producing country, harvesting will occur at different times.  Each harvest time is based on the region’s distance from the equator, its altitude and climate variations. The flavor of all agricultural products, including coffee, will vary throughout the harvest year.  The difference in harvest times are not necessarily a quality obstacle but should be looked at as an opportunity for coffee buyers and roast masters to manage their blends by introducing fresh coffees throughout the year.  Early harvest coffee will have different sensorial characteristics than mid-harvest or even late harvest coffees, due to the maturation of the fruit on the tree.

Sometimes it is all about the weather.  Fruits and vegetables from one’s garden or from the local farm stand will not taste the same harvest to harvest.   These variations are due to changes in the soil composition, amounts of sunlight and rain fall, and differences in fertilizers used. Wine has vintage years with high prices when the quality is elevated and reduced prices when grape production is not exceptional.  Coffee quality is very similar.

Logistics is critical for quality.  Once picked, processed, and shipped to the roaster, coffee’s peak sweetness, aromatics and flavor must be managed through proper storage and inventory control.  As coffee ages it begins to oxidize and stale, creating dry, cereal-type, papery, and dusty characters.

Consumers expect a flavor consistency when purchasing coffee products.  For blends and standard offerings, consistency means uniformity of flavors throughout the year.  For specialty quality and micro-lots, consistency is defined by uniformity of flavors from roast to roast, and possibly harvest to harvest.

Verification of roast profiles, process controls and manufacturing standards will help ensure that the coffee’s intrinsic quality is not harmed or adversely changed.

In today’s highly competitive coffee marketplace, simply changing green coffee is not always the right answer.  Sometimes the performance issue is related to manufacturing or packaging.   Here in the lab, our coffee technologists use scientific methods and sophisticated analytical tools to diagnose quality issues with green coffee components and roasted coffee products.  Poor coffee performance causes reduction in customer satisfaction, loss of revenue and a bad reputation. Coffee professionals maintain their coffees at peak performance for superior customer satisfaction.

Coffee Analysts Goes to Vietnam


Spencer Turer, Vice President of Coffee Analysts, was recently invited to attend the Tea & Coffee World Cup Expo and Conference in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.  Here are some of his observations after visiting the world’s largest producer of Robusta coffee.

“I first became aware of Vietnam as a coffee producing country in the mid-1990’s when I was the Manager of Coffee Development at Melitta.  The United States had recently opened trade relations with Vietnam and we were in the market for Robusta coffee to use in our private label business. In those days, the coffee was small bean with strong earthy and rubbery characters and even though the coffee was very inexpensive we opted to source our coffee from other origins that offered a more neutral character. Since that time Vietnam has increased both production capacity and overall coffee quality, with expected production in the 2015/2016 harvest year to be at 28.7 million 60/kg bags.  Vietnamese Arabica production is now over 1.1 million bags annually.

Our first business meeting in Ho Chi Minh City was with Mitsui, to see their quality control laboratory and learn more about our host country. We cupped Vietnamese Robusta and Arabica coffees, and also sampled Robusta and Arabica from neighboring country Laos.  Today’s coffees are not like they were 20 years ago; now we were finding neutral taste characters with a nutty sweetness for Robusta, and the Arabica coffees were clean and sweet, with slight acidity and a mild-to-medium body.

I was invited to the Tea & Coffee World Cup Expo and Conference by show organizers Tea & Coffee Trade Journal and was scheduled to lead 6 classes at the trade event in Ho Chi Minh City, and I arrived prepared!  My schedule included 3 lectures: Sensory Analysis, Quality Operations and Product Development; also scheduled were 3 hands-on classes: Beginner Cupping, Advanced Cupping, and Green Coffee Defect Identification.  All my classes were based on Specialty Coffee considerations, referencing SCAA standards. Each class was standing room only, with more students joining the classes while in session.   The students were a wide range of coffee professionals, all from Vietnam, including traders, roasters, roaster-retailers, and baristas.

While touring the city I saw many recognizable brands, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Cafe Bene, Highlands Coffee, Trung Nguyen and Starbucks.  I was very pleasantly surprised to see many local coffeehouses and small roaster-retailers throughout the city’s many districts.  My favorite local specialty coffee café was The Workshop in district 1. This company was importing specialty grade coffees from traders in Singapore and using several pour-over methods and cold brew processes to prepare refreshing and delicious coffee beverages.

I learned that coffee was still considered an out-of-home beverage in Vietnam, thus explaining the popularity of coffee café’s and the wide range of coffee beverages on their menus.  Due to the hot and humid climate, many coffee drinks are served over ice which helps minimize any earthy, rubbery, or harsh taste characteristics, and the coffee is usually mixed with thick, sweetened milk.  Many drinks were similar to a cold melted coffee milkshake.

As a special treat, I arranged to use specialty grade coffees from Hacienda La Minita/Distant Lands Coffee Roasters in the cupping classes.  For many students this was their first opportunity to taste coffee from Costa Rica, Colombia, Brasil, Indonesia and Ethiopia.  It was amazing to watch the faces and expressions of the students when tasting these fine coffees for the very first time, especially the tart-fruity characters of the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe.

I enjoyed my time in Vietnam, meeting many specialty coffee professionals, touring the city, and learning about the history and culture of Saigon.  The traditional Vietnamese food was delicious, even the jumping chicken! I certainly hope to have the opportunity to return to Vietnam soon.”


Coffee Analysts and the Roasters Guild

The Roasters Guild, founded in 2000, is an official trade guild of the Specialty Coffee Association of America. The organization consists of specialty roasters who are dedicated to the craft of roasting quality coffee and it promotes quality as the principle standard for success. To be a member of the Roasters Guild, roasting must be an integral part of one’s profession. The Guild holds year-round events and taps into its international community to further roasters’ knowledge of and skills in the history, fundamentals, art and science of coffee roasting.

Coffee Analysts Director of Coffee Operations Spencer Turer was at the Roasters Roundtable at the 1999 SCAA conference in Philadelphia when the idea for the Roasters Guild was first discussed. He was member of the organization committee to create the Roasters Guild in 2000, and is recognized as one of the founding members, serving on the first Executive Council from 2001-2004.  While a member of the Roasters Guild Executive Council, Spencer was appointed Chairman of the Certification Committee and created Roasters Guild Certification Program.

Spencer remains an enthusiastic supporter of the Roasters Guild and is a volunteer instructor for coffee cupping classes at SCAA events. Coffee Analysts recentlparticipated as a research location for the Roasters Guild Shelf Life Experiments.

Tea People Are a Lot Like Coffee People

Sensory Scoring Sheet

Sensory Scoring Sheet

Coffee Analysts’ staff members Gwen Toohey and Spencer Turer attended the WorldTeaExpo in May in preparation for increased tea testing capabilities at Coffee Analysts. Here are their observations on the event.

Gwen’s Observations:

The pursuit of tea, professional or otherwise, is part spiritual path and part precise process of technical prowess and mastery. This was clearly exhibited at the World Tea Expo event in Long Beach, CA, one of the major tea business and education hubs in North America.

On Day 1 of the expo, I took the first step toward a Tea Specialist certification with the Core 1 Essentials of Camellia sinensis class. The class is the first in a 7-part certification course run by the World Tea Academy, an internationally recognized educator in tea training and education. The one-day intensive course covered all aspects of tea processing, chemistry of the plant, professional tea cupping protocols and sensory evaluation, and concluded with a hands-on cupping of the 6 primary tea types: white, yellow, green, oolong, black, and dark.

Day 2 expanded further on these topics with the World Origins Tasting Tour, an all-day series of lectures accompanying the evaluation of several dozen different teas from around the world, including highlights from China, Taiwan, and Nepal.

We ended the week with a 2 day tea processing class, where we utilized traditional techniques to take leaves from Hawaii in their raw, unprocessed form to the finished product: 2 black teas, 2 green teas, 2 oolongs, and a white tea. It was humbling to experience first-hand the intricacies of both the mechanical and artistic skills required to make delicious teas. Finally, we cupped and evaluated the teas we had made. For what it’s worth, our Long Beach style oolongs tasted pretty good!

Tea is regarded as an ancient product with a strongly established lineage. However, what left a great impression on me was hearing many lecturers speak about gardens that are now expanding beyond traditionally accepted regional processing methods and experimenting with making radically different styles of teas. This also encompasses parts of the world previously not looked to as tea producers, such as Scotland and the United States, that are now producing high quality teas. One speaker told the story of a community in the Himalayas learning about processing from YouTube videos and implementing these techniques in their own gardens. I believe this spirit of exploration is a great asset during a time when the industry seems to be facing some significant questions about the blossoming expansion of specialty tea.

Spencer’s Take:

After attending the WorldTeaExpo in California this May, and immersing myself with tea professionals and tea culture, I observed some interesting things.  Coffee people and tea people are more alike than different.  Although tea is a much older beverage than coffee, in some instances, the conversations and descriptors surrounding “specialty” designations are much newer.

Tea professionals struggle with many of the same issues as we in specialty coffee do; i.e. organic production, fair-trade certifications, relationship and direct trade sourcing, profitability of retail operations and economies of scale for wholesale businesses.  I found myself comparing and contrasting coffee to tea much of the week, so that my mind could categorize all this new information in a way that was easily understandable (at least to me!) Sometimes it worked and other times I just needed to accept the fact that tea is different, not better, not worse, just different.

During the past few years in specialty coffee we have begun to realize that the two main processing categories, washed and natural, do not fully explain all the variations in origin processing. New processing names are currently being debated and, once determined, will be used to explain the variations of washing and drying.  In tea, these issues were settled a few thousand years ago by separation the processing categories into white, green yellow, oolong, and black.  However, each processing type has its own variations for leaf manipulation and final processing, based on the consumer usage.

Like coffee, tea has standard cupping protocols used for quality control and tasting protocols to prepare beverages.   As a new tea professional I attended classes on both topics to learn the basics and embrace the methods used by tea professionals.  Tea sensory testing has similar intense characteristics like other hot beverages; however, tea also has many subtle, delicate, and fleeting attributes that take concentration and a trained pallet to perceive.

I found myself enjoying my time as a student and meeting other students who were sharing my journey of tea discovery.  One of the highlights of the WordTeaExpo was an informal session at one of the sales booths on the expo floor where I learned about breakfast teas. We separated typical breakfast teas into 6 component parts of the blend and then tasted each component separately.  Finally, we used the profiles to create our own individual blend, thus creating Spencer’s Breakfast Tea.  I found my blend to be very tasty, brisk, citric, smoky, and slightly spicy.

My co-worker, Gwen, and I are now working on updating our tea testing capabilities and working to provide contemporary commercial and specialty tea testing packages for our clients.