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Coffee is getting a grade in the Short North

The inside of One Line Coffee on High Street in the Short North. Credit | Oliver Boch | Lantern Reporter

Nestled in the middle of the Short North, six individuals get together in the back of a small cafe to explore their interest in coffee.

Ben Willis leads these meetings every Sunday at One Line Coffee located on High Street. It’s called cupping, and Willis is fascinated with the experience.

The meetings used to be sporadically scheduled, but Willis wanted to provide more of a consistent space for beginner and intermediate coffee enthusiasts to engage in the experience.

Similar to wine tasting, cupping draws on strong flavors and different types of brewing. Cupping events at One Line offer introductory information and techniques to identify these qualities.

Describing coffee as the most consumed beverage besides water, Willis compared both the cupping process and taste terminology to wine tasting.

“We talk about variety, we talk about microclimates, climates, cultures, even so much as adopting ‘varietal’ as a term,” Willis said.

Willis explained that the difference between cupping and wine tasting comes from what enthusiasts look for when evaluating coffee.

“Generally, in most education courses, you start with defects. That’s what you taste for, because generally, you want to know if anything is wrong with the coffee,” Willis said. “Understanding what’s good in it is actually less concerning, because people just don’t want to be offended by their coffee for the most part.”

Willis and One Line wanted to make the experience feel welcoming to those that are not very familiar with cupping. Generally, higher level cupping and coffee evaluation is a precise process with little contact with the actual coffee itself.

Willis describes it as “very sterile, very exact [and] very quick.”

Mallory Goggans, a graduate student in food science at Ohio State, attended the most recent cupping on Sunday, which came as part of an internship in which her coffee focused on the coffee tasting experiment.

She said that the cupping at One Line was much less intimidating than she had experienced before.

“It was definitely more relaxed because it was supposed to be fun and you learn the preliminary information,” Goggans said.

Willis likes to showcase a variety of coffee to cupping participants. He provides different options and processing varieties for the event to give guests a wider range and to help them understand various differences between coffee types.

He said that coffee production and manipulation is a changing process.

“Coffee is seasonal. It’s a fruit, it’s going to change, and it will probably also change the way that we’re doing things,” Willis said. “We’re trying to reinvent the wheel, essentially.”

The cupping events are held every Sunday at One Line Coffee on High Street in the Short North.

They have limited spots of six guests at a time in order to provide a comfortable atmosphere, and guests are asked to reserve their spot with a $10 fee that they will receive at the end of the event in the form of a One Line gift card.

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