Do you prefer your coffee bitter or crisp? Winey or buttery? Perhaps silky, or juicy?
These are some of the descriptors that appear on a world-first Coffee Character Wheel created by researchers at Southern Cross University, in conjunction with AgriFutures Australia.
The wheel is a colour-coded visual glossary of terms to describe coffee, organised by acidity, aftertaste and mouthfeel. It establishes a common language between coffee drinkers and producers.
The vocabulary is likened to that used to describe wine, and the research showed terroir - used in the wine industry to describe the environmental, varietal and agricultural factors that inform sensory experience - equally applies to the coffee industry.
Dr Ben Liu of Southern Cross University, the project's principal investigator, said: "For coffee aroma and flavour, we standardise to the well-known Coffee Taster's Flavor Wheel. However, we also identified many coffee descriptions for Australian-grown coffee beans related to coffee acidity, mouthfeel and aftertaste," Dr Liu said.
"We believe coffee is more than flavour. The acidity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste are also essential characteristics of coffee."
The Coffee Character Wheel aims to help build demand for Australian-grown coffee beans.
Australians consume more than six billion cups of coffee annually, and the coffee bean market in Australia is worth $1 billion, yet the majority of beans are sourced internationally.
What does Australian-grown coffee taste like?
"Using the Coffee Character Wheel, Australian-grown coffee has been described as having a low-medium intensity acidity with citric acid and malic acid characters similar to apple and berry, a smooth texture and light medium body mouthfeel, a medium-long aftertaste and flavours described as fruity and nutty," SCU project researcher Dr Simon Williams said.
"It is this sort of information that will allow us to inform consumers that Australia is a sophisticated and established coffee producer with enormous potential based on the unique characteristics of the region where that coffee is grown and produced."
To come up with the flavour profile, more than 100 Australian-grown single-origin green beans from 28 farms were analysed, along with an additional 50 international single-origin green beans.
The coffee varieties were de-identified and given to 138 panellists to taste at coffee-tasting panels.
"We confirmed that Australian-grown coffee is sweeter, nuttier and fruitier in flavour. This pleasant terroir is probably due to the cooler temperature in our coffee-producing areas," Dr Liu said.
A total of 679 unique sensory terms identified for acidity, mouthfeel, and aftertaste were distilled into a total of 95 for acidity, mouthfeel, aftertaste, and an overall grouping for shared terms.
The Australian coffee growing industry is long established. Today it consists of about 50 growers split between North Queensland, south-eastern Queensland and northern NSW.
AgriFutures Australia Senior Manager Emerging Industries, Dr Olivia Reynolds said the character wheel will assist coffee producers in defining and communicating the unique characteristics and flavours of their coffee.
"Importantly, consumers can start to identify their preferences depending on where that coffee is produced, much in the same way as wine.
"We believe this is a really important step forward globally. But in particular for an emerging coffee industry in Australia that will reduce our reliance on imports and give consumers an opportunity to support home grown Aussie produce and its unique terroir, and what better way than through a locally produced flat white."