Cupping for a cause

Blake Batson, Holden Whatley and Mark Montgomery prepare for a coffee cupping hosted by Common Grounds to benefit Los Fundaniños Orphanage in Guatemala.
Sarah Groman | Round Up Photographer

Common Grounds sponsors coffee tasting in support of Guatemalan orphanage

By James Byers
News editor

Common Grounds, located on Eighth Street in Waco, is known for its dizzying selection of specialty drinks. Plain black coffee isn’t one of them.

But that’s what about 25 students and other attendees drank Friday when Common Grounds hosted a coffee “cupping,” or tasting, to benefit an orphanage in Guatemala. As it turns out, black coffee doesn’t have to be bland.

The cupping was organized by Mark Montgomery, a manager at Common Grounds, and his brother Skot Montgomery, who visited Los Fundaniños orphanage in Guatemala a month ago with his church from Johnson City, Tenn.

Los Fundaniños cares for about 60 children from poor or abusive families.

Skot and church members helped the orphanage for a week by painting, cleaning, installing a security system and, most importantly, spending time with the kids.

While there, the helpers learned that the orphanage must foot a $516 gas bill each month to feed the children.

“We found out they have a need, and we’re just trying to take care of that need for April,” Skot said.

To help the orphanage pay its April bill, Common Grounds hosted the coffee cupping.

Cupping is a “process where you go through this flavor wheel and describe the different tones and aromas and flavors in your mouth,” Mark said. “It’s really pretentious.”

The coffee given to the tasters was a single-origin Guatemalan, meaning it wasn’t a blend of different coffees but a single product from a specific farm in Guatemala.

“We know where it came from,” Mark said. “They were paid a fair wage because there’s not a middleman in between.”

The Common Grounds staff made the coffee with a French press rather than the more conventional and very American coffee dripper. The press allowed the beans to soak for four minutes, a staff member said, making the coffee infinitely more flavorful.

“The thing about coffee is the different flavors come from where it’s grown in the world, so coffee grown in South America tastes different than coffee grown in Africa,” Skot said. “Based on how it’s roasted, it brings out all the flavors. So the single-origin is a true Guatemalan flavor, as opposed to a lot of the flavors you have here that are blends from America, Guatemala and Africa all thrown together.”

The black coffee was passed to the tasters, who were instructed to “breathe it back across the tongue and swirl it around like expensive red wine.”

Attendees were given a paper flavor wheel to help them verbalize what they tasted. The wheel contained colorful adjectives like “acidy” and “pungent” to describe the taste and “leguminous” and “chocolate-like” to describe the aroma of the coffee.

Tyler sophomore Cynthia Estrada said she’s usually more of a tea drinker and had difficulty enjoying the coffee. “I usually don’t drink black coffee, so it was really bitter for me,” she said. “I’m not used to that.”

Estrada’s friend, Lubbock junior Lauren Rodriguez, a Starbucks employee, was more open to the black coffee.

“I thought it tasted really fresh. It was really good,” she said, adding that the coffee had a “chocolatey” aftertaste.

Her instinct was on point: After the cupping, the single-origin Guatemalan was revealed by the Common Grounds staff to be “medium bodied, with a clean-mouth feel, ripe berry notes and a chocolate/smoky finish.”

Adding to the atmosphere of the cupping were pictures taken by Skot’s wife, Jamie, of the smiling orphans. The photos were strewn on strings across the backyard of the coffee shop. Attendees were encouraged to take a picture home as a keepsake and to snap a picture of themselves in a photo booth to be sent back to the orphans.

Through the sale of the $5 tickets to the cupping, sales of the single-origin Guatemalan coffee by the pound and sales of T-shirts branded “Chupete” in honor of the nickname of a personable orphan at the orphanage, Common Grounds raised more than $1,000 — nearly enough to pay the orphanage’s gas bill for two months.

This won’t be the last cupping at Common Grounds. Mark said he plans to feature a different single-origin coffee from around the world each month to raise funds for a specific organization. On May 6, the shop will host a benefit for an organization in Rwanda.

“We’re doing it to educate,” Mark said. “We chose a cupping to teach the Waco audience how to like coffee, and not just Cowboy Coffees and really sweet, sugary stuff.”