Imagine yourself sitting in a fancy restaurant with your partner and some of your close friends. The first of seven courses has just been served and the sommelier poured you a small glass of wine for you to taste. You take the glass of wine in your hand, swirl the wine around, look at the colour and the way the wine sticks to the glass. You bring the glass to your lips and take a little sip. Suddenly, a loud and distinct slurping sound cracks open the elegant ambiance of the restaurant. Looks of approval from the sommelier, your partner and your friends make it clear that your judgement of the wine is unanimously accepted; you are a connoisseur. Now imagine yourself in the exact same situation except the dessert is an espresso. This time they all look at you appalled: What on earth is he doing??
Slurping my way through life.
Since I have started with reviewing and tasting coffee, slurping has been one of my greatest forte’s. It started when I was still drinking wine on a regular bases and I wanted to discover all the tasting notes that were on the bottle. Just sipping the wine could only get me halfway there, I wanted it all. After much reading and practising I realised that slurping was the way to open up the wine and to aerate the wine in your mouth. This in turn opened up a world of flavour nuances and aroma’s that I had never before discovered. When I got the hang of it, slurping became a part of the experience of drinking wine. Nowadays I slurp almost any liquid that I get my hands on, except liquid nitrogen; somehow that just doesn’t feel right. My wife and friends frown upon my ‘disgusting’ habit of slurping but it has become a part of me, something I do unconsciously throughout the day. So what is slurping? What does it do? and is it awful or elegant?
What is ‘the palate’?
To discuss slurping I want to tell you how it works and for that I need to explain what ‘the palate’ is. A lot of people think that ‘the palate’ is the surface of your tongue where the tasting buds are. That someone who has ‘a sophisticated palate’ has more tasting buds than other people. Although the general meaning behind the word ‘palate’ is correct, the definition of the word is totally different. The truth is that ‘the palate’ is the roof of your mouth and is nothing more than a surface that separates the nasal and oral cavities. I guess that “this person has a sophisticated tongue” just doesn’t sound very well, does it?
Your nose is the boss.
A persons palate could be described as the range of aroma’s and flavours that a person can detect. But did you know that the tongue only plays a meagre part in tasting? The thousands of tasting buds on your tongue can easily detect if something is sweet, sour, salty, bitter or umami. They cannot, however, detect if something tastes like strawberry. For that you will need your nose. The nose can detect thousands of flavours and aroma’s but for that to work, the aroma’s and flavours do need to get into your nasal cavities. For that reason, when you’re having a cold, you cannot detect the exact flavours of your food or drinks. As a small experiment you can take a piece of candy and squeeze your nose tight. Eat the candy and you will see that you can detect if the piece of candy is sweet or sour, but you cannot determine the exact flavour. Next release your nose and eat a piece of candy again. What a difference huh?
Atomizing your sip.
Back to slurping. When you slurp you inhale an amount of oxygen with high speed. This causes the liquid to atomize, or spray, and cover all your tasting buds at once with tiny drops of liquid. This is the moment where you will determine the chemical properties of the liquid: sweet, sour, bitter etc. But your brain now only has a part of the puzzle. It still cannot determine what the flavour exactly is. There is also a part of the atomized liquid that travels up into your nasal cavities during the slurping. The sensors in your nasal cavities are activated and will send a signal about the flavours’ properties: this is chocolate, strawberry etc. This gets send to your brain as well, completing the puzzle. I hear some of you think: “but I cannot detect so many flavours as the other person does…” That has everything to do with the flavour and aroma memory of your brain. I always tell people: you eat and drink yet you do not taste. People often say that a mango tastes great, but hardly ever focus on the exact flavour, the feeling in their mouth and the aftertaste. The more you ‘taste’ your food and drinks, the better your ‘palate’ will become.
Slurp like your life depends on it.
We covered, in short, what slurping is and what slurping does. Now let us determine if slurping is awful or elegant.
When a person slurps his wine, no one bats an eye because it an elegant thing to do. When someone slurps his coffee, people watch and stare in disgust more often than not. Wine is considered a complex and sophisticated drink that holds many secrets when it comes to flavours and aromas. A person slurping his wine is merely getting the best out of his sip and that is widely accepted as something that one can do in public.
What if I told you that coffee is more complex than wine? What if I told you that coffee holds more flavours and aroma’s than wine? You probably would start to protest or straight up call me a liar. But the truth of it is that coffee has 850 volatile aromas and wine has only 200 volatile aromas. Unfortunately the human brain and sensory skills are too modest to be able to detect all of them or even describe them. You could say that coffee and wine are equals when it comes to the experience they can give to a person. But if a person is seen as elegant when slurping wine, a person slurping coffee should be considered majestic! And so I call upon all who drink coffee to slurp. Slurp like your life depends on it. Slurp in public, on parties, in restaurants and even when visiting the White House. Slurping coffee is not awful, slurping coffee is elegant!