The Best of Two Worlds

Greetings, readers! Allow me to introduce myself. I am Courtney Gott - a Nashvillian (for half of my life), certified natural chef and barista at the lovely CREMA.

On the culinary side of things, I run my own small business whose mission is to equip and empower people to take the nourishment of their bodies into their own hands. As a barista, I spend my days in the company of some of the greatest people I know who possess a contagious passion for coffee, from the sourcing of it all the way down to its presentation - just before someone takes their first sip.

My story today begins at a casual cupping - my first one, to be exact. New baristas were becoming acquainted with the coffees CREMA offered at the time - discussing fragrance, aroma, flavor, body and acidity…just to name a few things. The intention was not for us to be intimidated, but true-to-form, I placed a great deal of pressure on myself right off the bat. Going through culinary school, I learned the great value of a developed palate that can recognize and appreciate different flavors. As a barista, this is a skill that I had hoped would translate and be able to lend itself to my development within the specialty coffee industry. Much to my dismay, standing around a table of exquisite coffees, each unique in its characteristics, I was at a loss to be able to distinguish much of anything. Surrounded by people whom I admired, whose palates are unbelievably refined and able to detect the most delicate nuances in flavor, I was battling an emotion that seemed to resemble shame. One of the many beautiful things about the specialty coffee industry and one of countless things I love about it is that it is made up of people who support and encourage growth without any negativity. No room for shame here. There were no snarky comments or glances between roasters and baristas that said “yikes…I would’ve expected her to know more than this.” In that moment I decided to allow myself some grace and the time it would take for my palate to develop. Sure enough, over time I began to detect nuances and differences in flavor, body and acidity that I never would have before. 

One day and one cup in particular that really stood out to me was a hand pour from a producer named Luis Monga from the La Lia mill in Santa Rosa, Costa Rica. Beautifully roasted by our own crew at CREMA in Nashville, it had already become one of my favorites as I tasted it through various encounters at cuppings, etc. It wasn’t until one day when I decided to make myself a cup (via Kalita, Wave series) taking time to be intentional about the preparation, the process and the tasting of this coffee that I realized the grace I allowed myself had led to recognizable growth. The creamy body with fruit-forward notes of black cherry, a maple-esque sweetness and key lime acidity were actually distinguishable to me and I couldn’t hide the smile that spread across my face. A smile rooted in a combination of pride in my own growth and sheer gratitude that this is an experience I get to share this with others for my “job.” To this day it is still one of my favorite coffees that we offer to customers. Yes, it is a delightful cup of coffee, but my fondness for it is more likely due to the fact that it is representative of a moment in time when I noticed development and growth in something I care about. What a sweet little cup of coffee you are, La Lia - both literally and figuratively. Just as chefs spend years developing refined palates, I know the same dedication and time should be allowed for the development of anyone’s palate, whether as a coffee professional, self-proclaimed “addict,” or occasional partaker. I still have miles to go and my palate is far from what I hope for it to be, but I’m enjoying the process and thankful for the beautiful coffees I have tasted and will continue to taste as I learn and grow.

Learn to develop your palette, sign up for one of our ongoing Coffee Education classes today! Or contact Courtney to schedule a one on one training.

Selected offerings from Courtney’s healthful creations will be available at CREMA starting this spring. Subscribe to the blog (at right) to be notified when they arrive.