I recently learned about an interesting new tasting app for coffee via Twitter. It’s called Angel’s Cup and it leans more toward social media interaction than coffee journal. If you’re familiar with some of the better beer apps it’s more Untappd than it is My Beer Nation. That being said, find an unfinalized teaser pic of what Angel’s Cup will look like in December, with some nice features for journaling all the coffees you’ve been chugging in addition to being able to brag about them on social media!
I got a chance to ask some questions of Jeff Borack, the man behind the app, too. He graciously answers some interview questions below, but let’s talk about the app itself, first.
Angel’s Cup is very visual and the interface is pretty intuitive. You enter a name for the coffee and start a “beginner” or “advanced” tasting. The advanced tasting has eight elements to evaluate while the beginner tasting is only four. I was drinking an EXCELLENT Huckleberry Gondo at the time, so I used it for my test comparison on the app for this article.
On both modules, you start with the roast level, from “half city” to “nearly black” with seven levels of roast in between. I don’t think the roast level plays into the score that is give to the coffee after the evaluation is done. On the beginner module, the next criteria to evaluate is “taste” and there is a nice “What do these terms mean?” description. It creates a cool flavor diagram, which I love for some reason! The next thing to look at on the basic module is aroma and flavor, which uses a flavor wheel. The only thing that may not be totally intuitive here is that once you click the flavors on the wheel a couple times, to go back into other areas of the wheel you simply click the middle of the wheel (the hub) and it is like a “back” button.
The differences between the two tasting modules is as follows:
Advanced tasting breaks aroma and flavor into their own wheels rather than being lumped together like in the basic tasting.
The taste profile tool in the advanced tasting doesn’t have “body” on it like the basic one does. Instead, “body” gets its own section.
The advanced module has a section for “taint” so you can describe flaws in the coffee if there are any. This is not present in the basic tasting.
In my sample tasting, the coffee got a 10-point lower score in the advanced module than it did in the beginner one (77 vs 87.5) even though I scored as many elements exactly the same as I could. Maybe the acidity level I was able to apply in the advanced module brought it down that much? I actually like the bright acidity of the coffee, so I would have to play around with it some to figure out the right balance between “bad” and “good” acidity. Everything else in my evaluation was the same as much as I could make them.
After you score a coffee you can easily share it to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest if you use the buttons below the score.
In my mind I would consider this coffee in the 90’s, so the beginner rating was certainly closer to what I feel like the coffee should score. Like any app there is a bit of a learning curve, and the more you use it the more you’d develop a sense of the rankings to give it to get scores that reflect your impressions of the coffee you’re evaluating.
And now for Jeff’s interview:
Q: Tell me about Angels Cup and Angels Take. I know the phrase “angel’s share” from the whiskey world and it looks like one of your businesses may be spirits-related.
Yup, we’re building Angels’ Cup right now, which is a coffee tasting app. In December we’ll be selling coffee tasting flights of 4 samples, also available as a subscription. The company name was originally conceived as Angels’ Take or Devils’ Take which is a reference to the barrel aging process for whiskey and wine. We’re focusing on coffee at the moment because I can go to the store, buy a bag of coffee, break it up into sample packs and ship them to people. For legal reasons I can’t do that with whiskey. And with wine, even if I was allowed to do that, oxidation makes it impossible. So we’re figuring out how this business might work with coffee first, but you can be sure that as soon as we have the right formula, we’ll be expanding into whiskey and wine.
Q: What’s the purpose of the app? What are you trying to gain with the app?
The purpose of the app is to help people develop their own taste in coffee. We’re building something that I wish existed when I first started taking my coffee game to the next level. The simple act of taking notes is helpful because it forces you to slow down and think about what you’re experiencing in a consistent way. We’ve made it easy by putting it in your pocket, and fun/simple to use with an intuitive interface. Today we’re rolling out a new feature that converts your tasting notes into a sharable infographic. We see people posting pictures of their coffee mugs or french press all the time, we think this is a much better way to share your coffee experience with friends. It’s also a great way for roasters to start a conversation about their coffee because people can interact with it, they can see the roaster’s notes, try the coffee, and then record/compare/share their own notes.
Q: What’s your background and interest in coffee?
My background is actually in finance. I was a hedge fund analyst for 7 years, started getting into angel investing in NYC. Before I started angel investing, I expected to see a lot of college kids with no clue how business works and some terrible ideas for photo sharing or messaging apps. But I was blown away by the quality of the ideas and the quality of the people involved in these startups. That inspired me to invest in a few companies, and eventually leave finance to start my own thing.
Q: Is the app a lead-up to something? What message are you trying to put out there?
A decent bottle of wine is maybe $15, a great bottle is $100. That’s a big price difference for 4 glasses of wine. A decent bag of coffee is maybe $12 and a great bag is $17. And that’s probably 15 cups. So for an extra $0.30 per cup, you could be experiencing the best coffee on the planet. If you already drink coffee, you’re 90% of the way there. We’re making it as easy as possible for people to squeeze the extra 10% out of every morning. There’s a ton of complexity in coffee, you can taste interesting things, you can learn what a coffee from Ethiopia tastes like fairly quickly with not a lot of experience. Incrementally, it’s not expensive, it’s not time consuming, but it is rewarding.
Q: Concerning the app, is there a way to save entries or is this a possibility in the future? I use My Beer Nation and Untappd to record the beers I’ve drunk, have you considered doing something similar with this app?
When you complete a tasting, it gives you a link, and that link is permanent so your tastings are being saved. In December, we’ll be launching a real landing page where you can log in with FB or create an account, and then all your tasting notes will be saved there for you to review. And over time, we hope to build more features around that so people can look back at their tasting history and gain some insight. I’m attaching a rough screenshot of how that might look on launch.