Spruce Street Espresso’s Weekly Awakening Event

Spruce Street Espresso, the year-old coffee shop at 11th and Spruce, offers one of the best opportunities around for fine-tuning your palate. Every Friday at 1 p.m. the café holds a “cupping event,” aka a coffee tasting. Barista Charlie Biando says it’s called a cupping and not a tasting because it involves the senses of sight and smell as much as it does taste.

The three-step process begins with smelling the freshly ground beans dry, and then the fragrance is evaluated again as hot water is poured over them to begin the brewing process. Biando says this is called the bloom because the hot water releases gases and coffee grinds swell. Finally, the brew is tasted — actually slurped just like wine. Participants often take notes so they can remember the varietals and regions they like best.

Spruce Street’s roaster Counter Culture (singled out for excellence in the September 2008 issue of Saveur) sends three exotic coffees for this weekly event. A recent cupping featured single-origin beans from Peru, Africa, and Indonesia. During the cupping, participants learned to identify differentiating flavors like herbs, chocolate, and cherry. Not bad for something you can do for free on your lunch break.

1101 Spruce Street; 215-609-4469; sprucestespresso.wordpress.com.