Intermission: Palate training: Citrus

Every now and again, I see things that seem a little crazy, but help me understand coffee and food a lot better. For example, when baristas and roasters go palate training and sample various fruits and acids to help them pick out flavours in coffee. It can be as tame as eating fruit salad, or as crazy as drinking vinegar and other acids.

A barista from Workshop Espresso in Sydney kept recommending wine tasting to assist with identifying coffee flavours, but alas, I believe I am alcohol intolerant! But alcohol sampling I did, where I could, small sips at a time. It’s how I ended up with a very small but pricey wine collection, and a smaller and less pricey whisky collection. Oh, and a bottle of gin.

Anyway, what really sparked me to start testing this out for myself, was when I found that people were describing tasting notes as “meyer lemon acidity” – how on earth can you tell a meyer lemon from any other lemon? Was it even a valid flavour descriptor?! It was time to put all this to the test. I had a lucky week at my local farmers markets, where I could obtain two types of lemon and three types of limes. Time to undergo palate training of the citrus variety!

From left to right: meyer lemon, lisbon lemon, tahitian lime, keffir lime, blood lime. To be honest though, I believed there was at least some justification behind the identification of meyer lemon, as I had stopped buying normal lemons after tasting a meyer lemon, because I perceived the meyer lemons to be sweeter. But was it realistic to be able to tell this apart when drinking coffee?

Next step, observing their insides. The lisbon lemon is your standard yellow, the meyer lemon is darker below. Ordinary lime above, keffir lime in all its wrinkly glory below, and then the obvious blood limes.

And lo and behold, the taste test! But there are only four? Left is lisbon lemon, then meyer lemon with a slightly darker colour, then lime green lime, and lastly, blood lime. The blood lime really liked to donate its little pulpy things so they went in too. First of all, I didn’t have a fifth mini ramekin thing to put keffir lime juice in, and secondly, the person who sold me the lime said that it was bitter and best in curries. So, all the keffir lime got from me was a lick.

So, could I taste a difference? Yes! Could I figure out which was which in a blind tasting? No! The meyer lemon was more.. “full bodied” than the lisbon lemon and I definitely like it better. This lime was not so sweet, and ended up tasting more sour than the lemons and didn’t actually have its distinctive lime flavour. Then came the blood lime, which was less sour than a normal lime too. And for the record, the keffir lime wasn’t actually that bitter but lends itself more to its aroma – and I wanted to make a curry after smelling it!

And that was the end of me burning my tongue off with natural acid. Hopefully this process has lead me to be better at tasting coffee.