Coffee connoisseur

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Audio Transcript:

LISA MULLINS: All right. And now as promised, that man who insured his tongue. He's Gennaro Pelliccia, and he's the chief taster for the Costa Coffee company in London. He literally tastes a cup from every batch of coffee roasted by the company for its worldwide clientele. So Costa Coffee has just had its taster's tongue insured for $14 million dollars. Pelliccia says that his tongue gets a real workout on a daily basis.

GENNARO PELLICCIA: A typical day for me would be to receive and sift through the different coffees that have come in for approval. Obviously, this is a green coffee before it's actually been cooked, and we'll prepare cupping sessions in the laboratory where we'll look at the coffee's visual aspects. And then finally we'll do a cupping session as an infusion as well as an espresso. And I'm in the lab all day, you know, sipping the coffee, very much like a master of wine would do where I'm slurping and spitting the product out. So I won't actually ingest the product all day long, otherwise I would be a very sick person.

MULLINS: You taste it but you don't drink it? You don't swallow?

PELLICCIA: We don't swallow, no. I mean, you do sometimes, especially if the product is very good. You may actually enjoy a small sip, but the main job is to slurp and exactly like wine, you know? You move the product around your mouth ensuring it covers as much of your palate as possible and then it's spat out most of the time.

MULLINS: What do you spit it into?

PELLICCIA: We use little spittoons.

MULLINS: Little spittoons? I mean, how big? Because you're tasting a lot of coffee.

PELLICCIA: I've seen spittoons sometimes almost a meter high next to the cupping station where people will be spitting into them from a distance sometimes, depending on the speed in which they're cupping.

MULLINS: Next to a meter high, meaning almost a yard high, for us?

PELLICCIA: Correct. Just a little bit bigger than a yard � little bit taller than a yard.

MULLINS: Well, as long as the aim is good, I mean, at least in here it must make for a good show. Okay. So we're talking here about the insurance that you have gotten for $14 million dollars? Is that right?

PELLICCIA: That's correct.

MULLINS: How come $14 million and not $15 million?

PELLICCIA: Well, very good question on that. I have been told strictly not to disclose too much about the policy. In fairness, I don't really know the extent detail on it myself. One thing I can share is that the tongue is insured for permanent damage. And it's not just the tongue, it's anything which is permanently damaged to do with my taste senses. I guess if you look down the list of other people who've had their body parts insured, America Ferreira also had her beautiful smile insured.

MULLINS: Oh. This is the woman in Ugly Betty, the TV show?

PELLICCIA: That's correct. Yes.

MULLINS: Yeah. All right. Now, just to test those taste buds, we're having a cupping session in the studio where you are right now. We should say that I'm in Boston, you're in London. Our producer in London, Alex Collins, I don't know if you can see him, but he's providing some samples of BBC cafeteria coffee. This is your lucky day. For your own enjoyment, you get to taste a little bit of wicked goodness from the BBC canteen. Can you tell me what flavors you have in front of you there?

PELLICCIA: Sure. The first thing we do is obviously have a bit of -- the smell. Apart from the very first assessment, which is a visual assessment, the smell.

MULLINS: How's the visual?

PELLICCIA: Well, I'm not sure if I'm allowed to share this, but the coffee's been sitting here for 10 minutes, so the cr�me on top has died away a bit. So it's not the most attractive thing in the world. I won't spit this coffee out. I'll swallow. There are no spittoons in here. It's okay. It's okay. It doesn't have what I call �character.� It's a little bit flat, but again, in fairness, it's not a criticism to the supplier of your coffee. This is more the fact the coffee's been sitting here awhile and it's actually retained some of the flavor of the cardboard takeaway cup. So I don't think that's very fair of the coffee.

MULLINS: And for no extra charge. Now, when you � I like the sound effects there. And that wasn't just for the radio; that was � you have to take in some air as you're taking in some coffee. Just as with some other beverages. Now, when we finish the interview, are you going to finish the coffee?

PELLICCIA: No. I've had many � I've had lots of coffee today, thank you very much.

MULLINS: This wouldn't be the topper for the day? Yes. That's quite all right. Gennaro Pelliccia is chief taster for the Costa Coffee Company in London. He has just had his tongue insured for $14 million dollars. Thank you for joining us. Take good care of that tongue.

PELLICCIA: Thank you very much.