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How to Taste Coffee

Coffee cupping is like wine tasting -- but for coffee. Rows of coffee cups are lined up, and tasters use spoons to slurp the brew, noting their impressions of taste, acidity, aftertaste, and body (that last one is the "weight" of the coffee, meaning how light, heavy, and/or creamy it might be). This process is how coffee producers grade and describe their coffee -- but it's also becoming a thing you can do at a local coffee shop. Here in Portland, Stumptown hosts daily cupping events. I have to admit -- I like my coffee weak and full of sugar, so I haven't participated. But this is a fairly sophisticated practice akin to wine tasting that actually sounds kind of fun...if you're into coffee.

This short video from NPR shows a cupping event in Baltimore (through audio and still photographs) so you can get a taste of the action. Best line? "You're gonna want to think of yourself as a human vacuum" says the instructor, explaining how to slurp properly.

Coffee Is The New Wine. Here's How You Taste It from NPR on Vimeo.

Have You Been to a Coffee Cupping?

I'd like to hear what it's like -- and whether I would survive Stumptown's morning ritual.

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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