BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. - Inside the Caribou Coffee Headquarters in Brooklyn Center, three guys are single handedly taste testing every batch of beans they've ordered or may order if it passes the strenuous test they call Cupping.
"Cupping is to the coffee industry what wine tasting is to the wine industry," said Chad Trewick, Senior Director of Coffee and Tea.
On this day, there are 17 samples to test ranging in origin from Kenya to Costa Rica and Sumatra. First, they break the crust that forms during the steeping process and take a big whiff. The next step involves slurping the coffee off of a spoon; the louder the better.
"We create a fine mist out of the coffee, it sprays our pallets and we can pinpoint the different characteristics we're experiencing," said Trewick.
From there it's spit out to avoid a caffeine overload. The coffees are scored and those scores are discussed. Words like tootsie roll, beautiful and sandal-woody are used to describe their attributes. Then they decide which coffees to purchase.
Next door, the coffee beans that passed the test are going through the roasting and packaging process and will soon be sent all over the world.
"We're enjoying great success internationally," said Alfredo Martel, Senior Vice President of Marketingand Product Management, "Not only are we a great brand and system in the Middle East, but we have now entered into Turkey."
Twenty stores are already operational in Turkey. That overseas appeal is part of what has lead to a turnaround for Caribou, a company that has had its share of struggles.
"The retail business grew very rapidly and with that came some growing pains," said Martel.
In 2008 they refocused and credit the people, products, quality and passion for reenergizing Caribou and getting it where it is now.