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Writer’s Workshop: Coffee fuelled sensory description

Keep your descriptions fresh and infuse them with the lexicon of coffee!

The Coffee Tasters’ Wheel is a tool to help professionals and hobbyists articulate the complex flavours and aromas of coffee. There are several variations of the wheel, with World Coffee Research contributing to the latest re-designs. Have a google and pick your favourite one! For most wheels, tasters start in the middle of the wheel and work towards the outer edge, distinguishing the tones and hues of the blend as they proceed. For the enthusiasts among the fleet, the Speciality Coffee Association describe the methodology in a step-by-step guide – all you need is a cup of your favourite roast!

Speciality Coffee Association Coffee Wheel

For writers, the coffee wheel is an incredible word bank, meticulously researched and readily sorted into categories and near synonyms, which makes finding the right word fun and simple. While the words won’t always suit the situation you’re describing (not everything can smell as good as freshly roasted coffee), the wheel is a useful tool for helping you to think about the senses and how to describe them – a great way to get your creative juices brewing!

Let’s give it a try and take this description of a chemical leak as our example.

(( A funny taste in the Science Lab, U.S.S. Caffeine. ))


With the staff rotas finalised, Shannon logged them into the system.


Signing off the terminal, Shannon coughed. Her eyes squinted at the bad taste stuck at the back of her throat.


Shannon: Ensign, did your coffee … ::Shannon struggled for the words.:: … taste off?


Tim: ::Apologetically.:: Didn’t have any Ma’am.


The Ensign paused a beat.


Tim: Now you mention it … there is a funny ::Tim swallowed.:: … taste in the air.


Shannon’s expression stiffened as she nodded.

Here’s how you might use the coffee wheel to craft a sensory driven description. This example uses WCR’s 2017 lexicon.

(( A funny taste in the Science Lab, U.S.S. Caffeine. ))


With the staff rotas finalised, Shannon logged them into the system.


Signing off the terminal, Shannon coughed. Her eyes squinted at the dry, acrid taste that scratched at the back of her throat.


Shannon: Ensign, did your coffee … ::Shannon struggled for the words.:: … taste … sharp?


Tim: ::Apologetically.:: Didn’t have any Ma’am.


The Ensign paused a beat.


Tim: Now you mention it … there is a funny ::Tim swallowed.:: … acerbic cut to the air.


Shannon’s expression stiffened as she nodded.

Using the coffee wheel added a visceral dimension to the description – you can almost taste the toxic fumes! It also provides the other writers in the scene with information about the properties and characteristics of the mystery substance, allowing them to build upon the scene and the mystery.

About Ben Garcia

Ben Garcia graduated the Academy as a HCO officer and is written by Wes.
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