10 January 2022

The Institutions: Finding berried treasure at The Cupping Room

| Michelle Taylor
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The Cupping Room

The Cupping Room, a beautiful space to enjoy spectacular coffee. Photo: Supplied.

I have just fallen back in love with coffee – my heart skipping, senses thrumming and heightened.

The timing of today’s lunch at The Cupping Room is uncanny. Earlier in the day, while driving my son into work, the words “I don’t think I enjoy the taste of coffee anymore” escaped my lips. It is something I have thought about but left unvoiced for a while. Perhaps my tastebuds are dulling because the anticipation for my morning brew is often followed by disappointment.

But now, just two hours later, what was bland and muted feels ablaze with colour and excitement. My love affair with coffee is back on track. Grab a cuppa and let me tell you about it.

Most Canberrans will be familiar with The Cupping Room: the longest-running of several cafes founded by world-renowned local barista Saša Šesti. Saša’s penchant for coffee encompasses more than seeking the perfect balance in a brew.

The Cupping Room’s general manager, Cam, says staff love sharing stories of each coffee’s origin and the farmers who produce them.

“We want to bring all the farms we deal with through Ona and Project Origin into the spotlight. Saša has met with the farmers and developed relationships with them,” Cam says.

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Saša’s passion for coffee is contagious. It’s evident in his team at The Cupping Room. Cam has recommended that I try two types of coffee: one milk-based (my comfort zone) and a pour-over.

Barista Brian brings out an Ethiopian coffee called Violet. The milk-based coffee from Ethiopia takes inspiration from Saša’s 2015 World Barista Championship win.


The milk-based Violet, an Ethiopian coffee, is a limited release coffee. Photo: Kazuri Photography

“This coffee changed my life,” Brian says.

“The Ethiopian farmers really challenge themselves. They don’t have any fancy equipment or technology, but they create world-class coffee using a technique known as a supernatural process.”

He describes the fermentation process, where farmers put the coffee cherries into one thick layer on a large African coffee bed. They flip the layer every 24 hours. The cherries ferment slowly in an anaerobic environment, resulting in vibrant colours on your palate and fruity notes of purple grape and violet florals.

The Ethiopian coffee is called Violet – it’s a reserve coffee made in small batches for limited release. As Brian talks, I sip and savour. The coffee is smooth and rich, and it ends with the fruity notes Brian promised.

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Next, it is time to try a pour-over – the PS3 – curated by barista Anthony.

“A pour-over or filter coffee showcases one origin, rather than a blend,”‘ Anthony says.

“The PS3 comes from El Salvadorian coffee cherries that have gone through a carbonic maceration natural process. Farmers pick the cherries off the tree, then infuse them with carbon dioxide in a sealed steel container. This provides a stable, controlled environment for the coffee to ferment. Long fermentation times allow for really interesting flavour profiles.”

The pour-over is not dark; rather, it is light-dappled like a fruity tea. As I pour myself a cup, Anthony describes what I might taste.

“This pour-over takes you on a journey of colours. For me, this coffee has an underlying back burner of sweet dark chocolate. Then it goes from purple to red to yellow. Deep, sweet blackberry to florals of cherry and rose, then passionfruit/pineapple notes. This is a unique coffee. It’s from a farm called Los Pirineos in El Salvador, produced by coffee farmer Gilberto Baraona, who sadly died from COVID last year. This is one of the last coffees that he produced. For me, this is his masterpiece.”

Hear the story behind your next coffee at The Cupping Room. Photo: Kazuri Photography.

While I sip and smack my lips and find those flavours, Cam assures me that its flavour profile will change as the coffee cools.

And suddenly, this is more than a cup of coffee. It is a connection, it is a global village, it’s an experience, a celebration of the life of a gifted man who left too soon.

Whenever background and context are given, connection, engagement, emotional investment and added value follow. And that has happened here today for me.

I did get around to eating lunch at The Cupping Room and it was wonderful. You won’t be disappointed.

But what resonated with me and lingered long after was the poignancy of the stories and the delight of tasting the flavours of the coffees.

Hear the story behind your next coffee at The Cupping Room. It’s located at 1/1-13 University Ave in Civic, and it’s open from 7:30 am to 3 pm weekdays, and 8 am to 3 pm on weekends. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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Frank Spencer10:10 pm 13 Jan 22

Oooohhh I love a good cuppa!

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