Asia's only woman coffee taster, Sunalini Menon, is CEO of Coffee Lab, a Bangalore-based consultancy which boasts of state-of-the-art equipment and offers a gamut of seed-to-the-cup services: coffee evaluation, education, training, certification and advisory services. The lab also assists in the special preparations of coffee such as estate brands and specialty coffees based on plant strain, region of growth, and the intrinsic properties of various beans. Coffee, believes Menon, is a very sensitive living being that emotes. Palate-sensitivity and attention to detail are a good taster's key qualities. A good taster possesses a sharp acuity of taste, concentration, good memory power, descriptive terminology and communication skills. Formulating blends is a vital part of Menon's business. Where and how coffee is grown affects the size, density and flavor of the bean. Coffee has as many notes and flavors as wine and you have to feel it layer by layer, advises Menon. But the mind and palate need a break between tasting sessions——eating a cracker or a piece of bread cleanses the palate. An hour before and after lunch are no-no for tasting sessions as are fatigue and poor health. Alcohol, tobacco and spicy food are to be avoided as well.

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