Cupping @ Theta Ridge Coffee LLC

Theta Ridge Coffee, located in the heart of South Bend’s manufacturing labyrinth on the northwest side, is one of the largest coffee bean importers in the Midwest. Of all Theta’s clientele, interestingly, Infusco is the shortest drive, to and fro…which makes sense that today, January 19, a dreary Thursday morning, heading over to the Bend was a no-brainer.

Hailing from Infusco, Jess, Aaron, and I were the lucky few who reserved our place to experience a small tour of the coffee bean palace, along with the highly anticipated “cupping”, to conclude. Kevin, the owner of Theta Ridge, guided us through and was kind enough to let us snap photos, scribble notes, and ponder aloud the mystique that is the coffee bean.

Highlighted below are some pictures and little snippets of bean information. Enjoy:





In the back of the facility, about 60 different beans are stashed atop the concrete.

Worldwide, coffee beans are the 2nd largest traded commodity. Oil is number one.







Within these burlap bags, the beans are green, not yet roasted. Green beans are much denser and do not grind like roasted beans (don’t make this mistake). The artwork from the different nations is pretty cool.

On a map, coffee beans are grown almost entirely between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn. AKA, high in altitude, hot, humid environments. In recent years, according to Kevin, Southern California is the northernmost point that beans have successfully been grown.



Above, Kevin guides Aaron, Jess, and I through “cupping”, which is the practice of individually noting the aromas and tasting notes of newly roasted beans, or old faithfuls.

The method:

  1. Make sure the spoon is clean.
  2. With the spoon, push back the crema atop the cup’s circumference to break up and reveal the aromas of the bean.
  3. Rinse spoon completely, dry off, and repeat the process at each cup.
  4. Each bean is tested in five different cups to allow your smelling senses to adapt and hold on to the different aromas, completely.
  5. Rinse the spoon before moving on to the next bean.

(We also used the same method to taste each bean by slurping probably a 1/2oz of liquid from each cup.)

Much like beer, aromas and tasting notes are classified usually by foods or other consumable items such as maple sap or agave. There are over 25,000 possible different tasting notes in all types of coffee beans, yet there is no “right” answer as everyone possesses a different palate.

When the word acidity is mentioned when dealing with coffee, for starters, just equate it to a beer’s hop profile. The taste almost “kicks” off your tongue.

The lighter the roast, the more imperfections are detectable.

Today, the four beans we focused on were:

  1. Kenya AA (red wine, raisin, fruit)
  2. JAVA via Indonesia (syrupy body, pleasant finish)
  3. Brazil Bob O’ Link (maple, sweet, fruit)
  4. Brazil Daterra Sweet Blue (dark chocolate bar)

The original “cuppers” of the Daterra bean are considered very special, “amazing” coffee bean enthusiasts. Year after year, after being mechanically picked, the aromas and tasting notes of the roasted bean are exactly the same, even when grown on different parts of the farm. Unreal stuff.



All in all, coffee (like beer) is pretty complex…and if you don’t care for things such as aromas and hop profiles…methods of roasting and brewing…the liquid you consume is still delicious and, in the end, that’s all that really matters. Right?

Now go and enjoy the bean at Infusco and the hop at Greenbush.

Sawyer is cool.


Published by Nick Arndt

Runner of dirt, rocks, and pavement. Live/work/train in the Adirondack Mountains.

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