Dr. Henry “Hoby” Wedler was born blind; he’s a sensory designer and has a PHD in Chemistry. I first met Hoby in Ruin Bar in Budapest. Despite being a Sunday evening, the bar was packed of people drinking, partying and shouting! When we lose one of our senses, we tend to rely on other senses more and more. Imagine how Hoby felt when he was in that bar. With the darkness surrounding him and noises banging through his eardrums. I looked at him and wondered how he could handle all of the noise. As someone lucky to have fully functioning senses, even I couldn’t handle it!
Hoby went to Budapest for a mission. He was giving a speech on stage for RE;CO about sensory experiences. RE;CO focuses on leading innovation and strategy development in specialty coffee. I was lucky enough to hear his speech, it was so powerful, I could really feel the passion when he spoke. As you probably know now, I am a sensory geek. I really enjoy experiencing these different stimuli in life. When Hoby blindfolded us and led through olive oil tasting, I knew I had to collaborate with him.
When I found out Hoby was visiting the UK for a Chemistry seminar in Bath, I contacted my friend from Clifton Coffee to host and collaborate the event together. This was how this phenomenal collaboration started. A collaboration crossed countries, cities, culture, roasteries and industries.
A collaboration crossed countries, cities, culture, roasteries and industries.
Our event focused on the effects of blocking off senses one by one, while tasting coffee, beer and wine. We kicked off the evening with blocking our ears with coffee tasting. I first explained how to cup with different techniques and imagine correlation when tasting. Then we ran the cupping in complete silence followed by a group discussion to share our findings.
The results were extreme. Some of us found there a very strong difference when sniffing dry coffee grounds, but not so much in tasting. Some found that hearing our own slurping and chewing in our mouths is distracting but surprisingly, blocking off sound didn’t cause much of a difference to taste.
Some of us tasted no difference at all. I too have to admit that blocking off my senses one-by-one didn’t have a profound impact on taste, so I’d like to try it again in a quieter environment so the experience is even more focused. The second half of the evening was led by Hoby. He gave attendees blindfold masks, and asked them to introduce themselves in the true darkness. I heard feedback that people felt more relaxed when they didn’t have to worry about how to hold themselves when speaking, she couldn’t see and no one could see her.
My key message is to inspire and encourage people to build up their sensory awareness.
Next, we were given 3 different types of beer and 3 wines to smell and taste. When blindfolded, our other senses amplify and what was fascinating was how our imaginations were stretched. With no sight, we were able to describe smells and tastes in a novel way. Yet when we see the item, we just see it as it is, and our imagination is already limited by our literal sight.
The evening was truly exceptional. My key message is to inspire and encourage people to build up their sensory awareness. The majority of the time, we take everything around us for granted without slowing down and just experiencing the present. We live in the future and worry about the past while we’re doing things. We tend to forget about the present, it slips away from our fingertips. Through this sensory evening, we weren’t just sharing our passion in coffee, beer and wine, but most importantly through our senses; it is the only way to truly engage and enjoy our life and the now.
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BY FREDA YUAN