I've started drinking a floral coffee, Bale Mountain from Steampunk. I wrote in my review that I do not have a wide palate when it comes to floral notes. This is down to my relative inexperience with floral notes in comparison to other flavours, such as cherry, blueberry, and chocolate. I have avoided some coffees described similar to teas and plants because I do not have many points of comparison.
It was no surprise that I was unable to pick out some of the flavour notes on the coffee I've been drinking. I cannot pick out "honeysuckle" because I do not have a good idea of what honeysuckle is in my mind. I may have experience with the aroma of honeysuckle but I cannot specifically remember honeysuckle. How is it possible for me to describe the coffee as honeysuckle? It isn't, and that is just the point.
As I started to drink the coffee, I reminded myself of a rule that I feel I need to keep reminding myself exists: coffee flavours are incredibly complex and it is unlikely that I will get the same impression of a coffee as someone else. I have been good at tasting the flavour notes on coffees I've had in the past but I've seldom been able to pick out every flavour note listed on a packet.
I feel like I have avoided many good coffees because I do not have experience with their flavour notes. Bale Mountain attracted me with its forest fruit notes and the coffee has opened me up to a whole new world of flavours. Maybe it is about time I start to drink more coffees with floral notes. I will run into issues because of my inexperience with floral notes but that is expected. I can only learn through practice.
An alternative is for me to go and seek out the "real" versions of the flavours in a coffee, something that I think I'll find myself naturally doing over time. I do not have the inclination to seek out honeysuckle so I can see whether it is present in Bale Mountain, but I do know that I'm often trying new flavours and building up a bank of these in my mind.
Indeed, flavours are complex. The method used to prepare a method affects the taste of the resultant brew. I found stirring my Aeropress seven more times than usual—for a total of ten times instead of three—had a clear and noticeable impact on the final coffee. So how you brew your coffee will affect what flavours you taste. And how a roaster brews their coffee—whether they use cupping to determine samples, what water they use, how long they leave their coffee to rest before trying—will impact how they taste the coffee. Flavour notes are one impression of a coffee, not a list of rules on what you should taste.
This point was driven home when I let other members of my household smell a cup of Bale Mountain. Everyone got a different impression of the coffee; someone said they smelled "honey" and "tea," two aromatic notes I was unable to discern in the coffee, even after someone had suggested them. I guess this post is me trying as hard as I can to remember that I cannot taste every flavour in the world and that tasting coffee is not a competition to see how many flavours I can pick up on from the tasting notes.