“I like my coffee the way I like it.” Coffee is a personal experience. Whether it’s your favorite brand of coffee, your preferred roast level, or even the special way you make it every morning, it’s not unlikely to have a specific routine.


So the questions is, how do we take all of those variables and discuss coffee in a meaningful and understandable way? Sure, there’s a “way you like it,” but certainly there’s a better way to express it.  In the coffee industry, we like to use two specifics tools– the Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel and the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon.



The Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel, shown above, is a flavor map, including the different tastes one can find in coffee. Using both broad and specific wording, the wheel helps tasters identify the specific flavor notes in different coffees, helping us better diversify our offerings.


Since its creation in 1995, the flavor wheel marks the industry standard for many coffee professionals. But recently, in 2016, the wheel was revamped in conjunction with World Coffee Research, to construct a more accurate and updated vocabulary. The new wheel is a combination of its predecessor and the World Coffee Research Sensory Lexicon– the other guide of information in our coffee toolkit.


In the creation of the lexicon’s first edition, sensory scientists spent over 100 hours with 105 coffee samples from all over the world. These days, you can find it written in 6 languages.


(If you want to get really nerdy about coffee and the lexicon’s creation, check out this article about the conception and categorization of the information).

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Now the question becomes, how do we use these tools, both as coffee professionals and at home?


The first step is to take the time to make a cup of coffee, paying attention to the details, measuring carefully and using the freshest coffee. Tasting the coffee’s intricacies isn’t nearly as fun when you’re gulping before work or downing it in your car.


When looking at the wheel, the Specialty Coffee Association encourages you to work from the inside out. Is the coffee fruity? If so, work your way out to find a more specific fruit flavor. Is it more of a berry fruit flavor or a citrus fruit flavor? Continuing to move outward, the wheel becomes more and more specific, whether it’s grapefruit or blackberry.


If you look closely, you’ll see the gaps between different flavors differ. For example, the gap between the berry and floral notes is much wider than the gap between berry and dried fruit, indicating the differences in these flavors and the categories we generally put them into.

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But the wheel isn’t all floral notes and bursts of citrus. Directly opposite of fruity– and taste closely– there are pockets of less desirable flavors like “rubber,” “woody,” even “skunky.”


Additionally, the lexicon and the wheel both complement the other. For the words that are unfamiliar on the wheel, an entry in the lexicon exists to explain it. For example, the word “Phenolic” falls on the bottom left of the wheel, among “Bitter” and “Meaty Brothy.” In the lexicon, “Phenolic” is described as “the aromatic described as damp, musty, and like animal hide. Reminiscent of a tack room.” Though we hope you aren’t drinking any coffees that you might describe as “phenolic,” it’s always good to have the words.


The more you taste, the more you begin to realize which flavors tend to cling to various coffees and their countries of origin. Rather than preferring a roast level, you begin to prefer a flavor profile from a specific country.  Some people like a heavier, nuttier coffee in the morning (maybe some coffee from Brazil) but they like a brighter, fruitier coffee (perhaps from Ethiopia) in the afternoon.


And now, with the lexicon and flavor wheel at your side, you’ll have the words to describe your coffee– exactly the way you like it.


Five years into the Syrian conflict, there are over 4 million refugees– an estimated 2.5 million of which are children. Many of these children have been forced to flee their home countries, leaving behind family, friends, belongings, and a place to sleep.


So when our partners at the American Swedish Institute came to us with a proposal to join their campaign for refugee relief, we immediately said “Count us in.”


This year, ASI is focusing on a theme of Migration, Identity and Belonging. One of the first installments is the exhibition “Where the Children Sleep,” a series of photographs by Swedish photojournalist Magnus Wennman.


Throughout the scheduled exhibitions, ASI will partner with various organizations to raise awareness and make donations. That’s where Tiny comes in— we source and roast the coffee in their FIKA Blend, served at FIKA (ASI’s award wining restaurant and Swedish for coffee brake, traditionally with a pastry and conversation), and sold in retail bags in their museum store. During the exhibition’s run, we’ll join FIKA and the museum store to support these relief efforts by donating a portion of all coffee sales to USA for UNHCR. 50 cents of each cup sold, along with 20 percent of all retail bag sales will go to relief efforts. This way, the exhibition goes beyond awareness, and visitors can begin to contribute directly.



Photograph by Magnus Wennman


Wennman, who is a two time World Press Photo Award winner and was named Swedish photographer of the year 4 times, photographed refugee children across Europe, gaining an understanding of the hardship these families face when forced to flee.


According to an article posted on the UNHCR website, Wennman had been in Beirut for just a short while when he met a refugee family, a father and his two daughters, who were living on the side of the road. In these moments, he was inspired to share their stories.


“I came up with this idea that I wanted to document where the refugee children sleep,” the article quoted Wennman saying. “No matter how hard this conflict may be to understand, it’s not hard to understand that children need a safe place to sleep.”


As Wennman’s introduction to the conflict seemed to be happenstance, ASI’s introduction to his work was similarly fated.


“Quite literally, we walked through the galleries at Fotografiska (Stockholm, Sweden), serendipitously encountered this exhibition, and wept,” said Scott Pollock, Director of Exhibitions at ASI. “The project offered so much emotional engagement, featured one of Sweden’s most brilliant artists, and tackled a subject we were ruminating on. We knew we had to share this experience with our audiences in Minneapolis.”


Pollock said the topic of migration had been on ASI’s list since 2015, as they knew it was important to explore immigration in a safe, open and inclusive way.


“ASI has been and continues to be an organization that invites all people to gather to connect their pasts to their shared futures,” Pollock said. “But our main goal is to get all these people in the room to better understand what is similar, and what is different, and create empathy and understanding.”


In the world of coffee, we also want to create a shared experience; whether that means making cross-continental connections between coffee farmers and coffee drinkers, or if it means taking the time out of your day for a “fika” coffee hour to reflect and converse.



Photograph by Magnus Wennman


Other “Migration, Identity and Belonging” exhibits include: Green Card Voices: Nordic Voices, a documentary look at local immigrants; The Stories They Told  a series of folk art carvings first popularized in the Nordic regions and then spread internationally; finally, Swede Hollow explores the fictitious characters and historical research referenced in the novel Swede Hollow by Ola Larsmo.


The FIKA Footprints campaign and the exhibit, Where The Children Sleep, will run January 21 through March 5.