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General Terms

Aroma emanates from hot, brewed coffee and perceived by the olfactory senses. In sensory evaluation of coffee, aroma is differentiated from fragrance which is used to describe the smell sensation of dry coffee after it is ground.
An alkaloidal compound found in coffee, tea and other organic products known for its stimulating effects after ingested. Caffeine is one of the many compounds depleted during the roasting process (i.e. caffeine content is lower in darker roasted coffees).
Direct Trade (or DT)
A term which categorizes coffees purchased through a direct relationship or contract with a particular farmer.
Fair Trade
Fair Trade is a specific classification (and certification) of coffee meeting ethical business standards established by the non-profit organization, Fair Trade USA. The positive social and environmental impact of Fair Trade is considered by experts to contribute to positive social change for marginalized coffee communities, but its impact has limitations.
This is the abbreviated conjunction of a coffee certified as both Fair Trade and Organic.
The objective evaluation and ranking of green coffee. Grading of buyers and sellers grade coffee according to the type and quantity of physical defects in a lot of coffee. Some grading also refers to various coffee producing countries' own, independent classification and grading systems.
New York "C"
This is a reference to the world benchmark price of Arabica coffees established in the commodities trading market. This price is the current (daily) spot price of commercial grade Arabica coffee, traded by container load (37,500 lbs). Most Specialty Grade coffee is no longer associated with the "C" price but some lower grade "specialty coffee" will be priced based on a markup from the "C" price, called a "differential," meaning it will fluctuate up and down with the commodity market.
Meant to describe a food product grown without the use of artificial fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, etc. and typically refers to a certification of that effect.
This refers the specific place where a coffee is grown and can refer to various degrees of specificity (country of origin, region within that country, etc.).
Most coffee beans are two halves of the coffee cherry pit. A peaberry occurs in a coffee cherry as one, rounded seed / bean.
Rainforest Alliance (RFA)
Rainforest Alliance is a holistic certification issued by the Rain Forest Alliance non profit org. The criteria for certification spans numerous, sustainable social and environmental factors.
Scott Laboratories
The R&D organization contracted for cultivar development in Kenya from 1934-1963 who created and labeled the "SL" varieties (e.g. SL-28).
Single Origin
Many coffees are now marketed and sold as "single origin" ("SO") coffees which typically means the coffees are traceable to at least their country, if not their region, farm and crop (as compared to a coffee blend).
Specialty Coffee
Often a generalized term to refer to high quality green coffee, but it also has a technical designation relating to a small number of defective beans in a 350g sample as well as an officially graded cupping score of 80 or higher.
A country long ravished by war and conflict is regaining awareness on the global coffee scene. While coffee quality still varies, more exceptional and classically Indonesian-like coffees are appearing. Coffee commerce is helping rebuild these communities.



An unpleasant sour taste in the coffee, typically resulting from fermentation problems.
Acetic Acid
Acetic acid is an organic acid that can lead to vinegar-like flavors and aroma in a cup. Typically results from over-mature coffees. In lesser amounts, can yield a pleasant winey note.
Acidity refers to a positive flavor characteristic in coffee. Good acidity in coffee leaves a cup tasting "bright" and sometimes, "juicy" or "lively." Coffees lacking acid can seem flat or dull.
Created during coffee roasting, partly from the Strecker Degradation of amino acid, Aldehydes (along with their close cousin, ketones), are an important factor in coffee aroma.
From alkaline (high pH), alkaloid is a dry, bitter flavor detected in coffee; typically the aftertaste.
A taste or aroma of an ashtray or smoke which is typically the result of a roast defect.
A flavor defect characterized by harsh, dry, acrid flavor. Can be sour, salty or bitter.
A flavor defect resulting from green coffee that has been stored (in its jute bag) too long, having absorbed unpleasant tastes from its storage environment.
A roasting defect from coffee that has been roasted too long at too low of temperature so compounds and flavors have not been developed.
Bitter is a basic taste characteristic of tongue perception (sweet, salt, sour, bitter). In small amounts, it can be a pleasant trait in coffee.
A term that refers to crisp, lively acid in coffee.
Typically used to describe a rich, heavy cream mouthfeel in coffee. Can also refer to the taste of butter in the cup.
A roast defect from roasting coffee too long and too dark, reducing organic and inorganic compounds increasingly into carbon.
Term to describe rich, smooth, "round" mouthfeel.
A broadly used term to describe soil or earth-like features in a coffee. Can negatively refer to dry or dirty taste, or can positively refer to rich organic notes.
Esters are catalyzed by a reaction between acids and alcohol when heated. Esters in coffee can help produce fruit-like aromas in coffee.
A term referring to fruit-like aromas and flavors in a coffee. These can often be found in natural (dry) process Ethiopia coffees, for instance and, as is true in that case, can be used to describe positive attributes or flavor defects depending on the opinion of the one using the term.
Wet processed coffee is fermented to break down the mucilage of fruit and separate the coffee "bean." Beans that have been over-fermented can take on a rotten flavor that can taint the cup.
Refers to a weak, undeveloped grain flavor, typical of coffee roasted too light and underdeveloped.
A freshly-cut grass aroma or flavor, also often called, "greenish," can result from under-roasted coffee or coffee that has not fully dried or rested before milling and shipment.
A savory flavor or aroma which suggests dry or leavy garden herbs.
A rugged, leathery aroma likened to animal hides.
A sweet, honey-like aroma or taste note in coffee. See also, Honey Process.
A flavor or aroma of leather or new leather goods.
Malic Acid
Since apples are a familiar source of malic acid, the tartness associated with that acid can yield hints of apple in coffee. Other times, it will give a pear or rhubarb note.
A flavor taint that with an alcohol or medicine-like taste.
A flavor taint that can hint at moldy socks. This could be a sign of a high count of unhealthy toxins and coffee displaying this taint should not be consumed.
A flavor or aroma reminiscent of rocks and minerals; the type of odor you might notice in a river running over granite boulders.
A flavor or aroma similar to mildewy, but less intense. This is not always a taint when exhibited in mild form.
A flavor that hints at pine tree or sap. Can be pleasant when mild.
A lively, spicy or almost peppery flavor like you may find in some olive oils.
An aromatic compound in coffee that is derived from caramelized sugars. These can have a fruity sweetness that can appear like pineapple or strawberry.
These are important aromatic compounds in coffee resulting from Maillard reactions. They are often associated with undesirable flavors.
Taking it's name from Rio De Janeiro, this is a defect found in low quality Brazilian coffees, marked by harsh, medicinal notes.
A flavor taint of burnt rubber or pencil eraser.
A defect resulting from tipping or scorching of coffee during roasting.
A dry, empty-like character that indicates age decay and depletion of green coffee.
Tannins in coffee, as in wine, tea and other foods, yield a bittering flavor. A "tannic" coffee has a high, unpleasant level tannin.
A pungent tar-like aroma that is often a result of dark roasted coffee.
An exotic taste that can demonstrate pleasant wine-like flavors and even aroma.
Similar to "straw" (above) this is also a defect resulting from old green coffee.
A defect term referring to honey flavor but a bad rustic, yeast-like flavor



Cultivar is a term used interchangeably with Varietal in the coffee trade to indicate plant material, although there are distinctions.

Arabica refers to species name, Coffea Arabica. It comprises roughly 70% of the world's coffee supply. The balance is almost entirely comprised of Coffea Canephora (known as, "Robusta").
Ateng consist of Catimor coffees, typically found in Indonesia.
Bergendal is a Typica cultivar in Indonesia which survived a leaf rust crisis in the 1880s.
A common arabica cultivar developed by the French on the tiny island east of Madagascar of the same name.
A cross between Caturra and Timor varieties. Productive, resistant to leaf rust and coffee berry disease.
A cross between Mundo Novo and Caturra. Productive, resistant and dwarf size.
A dwarf mutant of red Bourbon. Highly productive, with red or yellow cherries, similar characteristics to Bourbon and susceptible to disease.
A tall Typica tree originating on the Kent Estate in India. Now extensively used in Kenya where it is known as, K7. First cultivar selected for its resistance to leaf rust.
A hybrid of the large bean, Maragogype and Catuai.
A hybrid of the large bean, Maragogype and Caturra.
Maragogype is a mutant of Typica that yields large cherries and long seeds. Relatively low yield.
Mundo Novo
A tall cultivar selected from a natural cross of Typica from Sumatra and Red Bourbon in Brazil. Good productivity but moderately susceptible to disease.
A hybrid of Maragogype and Pacas from El Salvador. Large beans and modestly susceptible to disease.
A dwarf mutation of Bourbon from El Salvador. Productive at high altitudes but modestly susceptible to disease.
A mutation of Typica from Guatemala.
An Arabica from the Coffee Board of India with resistance to rust.
A cross between S.288 and Kent varieties, it is one of the most common Arabicas in India and Southeast Asia. Produces a balanced cup and subtle flavor notes.
"SL" for "Scott Labs" who developed this hybrid in Kenya known for its drought resistance, excellent flavor and notes of blackcurrant.
"SL" for "Scott Labs" who selected this hybrid from the French Mission variety grown in Kenya. Excellent cup quality but low resistance to disease and pests.
One of the main cultivars of Coffea Arabica originating from Yemen. It is known to genetically evolve into new varietals grown throughout the world.
The term, "varietal" is essentially interchangeable with "cultivar" but cultivar is typically used when referring to coffee plants.



Current Crop
This is the most recent crop from a given farm or plantation that is commercially available to buyers.
Fly Crop
Fly Crop refers to a second, small harvest from the same coffee plot. This term is mostly used in Kenya.
This is a metric term used to describe the size of agricultural parcels. One Hectare is 10,000 Square Meters, or 2.471 acres (an acre is 43,560 square feet).
New Crop
This is the first shipment(s) of the most recent harvest that are commercially available.
Past Crop
This refers to coffee that now has new crop or current crop available from the same farm or farming region.
Strictly Hard Bean
Strictly Hard Bean or SHB denotes a coffee that has grown at high altitude of greater than 1,200m, which mature more slowly, and thus more dense (and consistent), than beans grown at lower elevations.
Strictly Soft
While a soft bean designation denotes coffee grown at lower elevations with lower density (and in some respects, lower quality), Strictly Soft designation in Brazil is the highest grade in their classification system.



Black Bean
A coffee defect of an unroasted bean that is black or very dark. This can result from harvest of dead or unripe cherries, insects mold or similar damage.
Coffee Berry Borer
The Coffee Berry Borer (CBB or Broca) is an insect that burrows into the coffee bean while still on the tree. CBB is often a major threat to coffee crops.
Coffee Berry Disease
Coffee Berry Disease (CBD) is a fungal disease that affects Arabica coffee beans causing unripened fruit to drop from the plant.
Coffee Leaf Rust
Coffee Leaf Rust (CLR) is a fungal disease that attacks the leaves of the coffee plant, leaving the plant with yellow-orange blotches and ultimately kills the plant. This disease can devastate entire farms.
A coffee bean that failed to mature properly will "float" on the surface of the water during wet-processing.
A secondary and common defect of beans which lack a consistent, solid center, leaving only the shape of a shell. An excess of shells in a lot is an indicator of lower grade of coffee.
As the name implies, a stinker is a bean that may have over-fermented during processing and has a foul, pungent smell, which can spoil a coffee batch.
An under-ripe coffee bean, often exhibiting a wrinkled look, will fail to roast properly and consistently with the rest of the batch.



Beneficio is a Spanish term for benefit, or profit, and traditionally refers to a local wet mill where farmers bring their coffee for processing. More frequently now, farmers have their own wet mills, still often referred to as Beneficios.
A specific batch of coffee that is processed and imported independently of other coffees and marked accordingly.
Similar to a Lot of coffee, micro-lots are (as the name implies) small lots of coffee that are chosen for their unique position on a farm, characteristics, cultivars or other desired attribute, then processed and imported independently.
Carbon Dioxide Process
A process of decaffeinating coffee beans in a bath of highly pressurized liquid CO2.
Chemical Process
A process of decaffeinating coffee beans using steam to suspend the caffeine in the coffee, then exposing it to a chemical (typically methylene chloride or ethyl acetate) which isolates and removes the caffeine. This process has been thoroughly researched and found safe by the FDA and other agencies since these volatile compounds have a low boiling point of just over 100 degrees and coffee is roasted around 400 degrees then brewed with 200 degree water.
Remove the fruit or pulp of the coffee cherry by mechanically "pulping" or by fermentation.
Dry Mill
A facility that performs the final processing step in green coffee production by mechanically removing the parchment layer from the dried coffee beans.


Dry Process
Also called "Natural" or "Unwashed," is a method of processing coffee that sidesteps removal of the coffee cherry skin and fruit from the bean after harvest and instead, the coffee cherries are dried in the sun. Once dried, the skin, dried fruit and parchment layer are mechanically removed. These coffees exhibit more body and less acidity than their washed process counterparts.
In the wet processing of coffee, the skin and most of the fruit of the coffee cherry is mechanically removed, after which the coffee beans are placed in a tank to ferment overnight, breaking down the remaining fruit attached to the seed. After fermentation, the coffee is washed off and relocated for drying.
A defective coffee cherry or seed that lacks enough density that it will float in water. In washed coffees, these floaters are removed from the batch as one of the first steps in processing.
A high-barrier plastic liner used for packing green coffee inside of burlap bags. Helps extend life and flavor of coffee form traditional packing in unlined burlap and helps protect against damage during transport and storage.
Guardiola or Mechanical Dryer
A mechanical drum coffee dryer used to slowly dry green coffee as an alternative (or a supplement) to sun-drying coffee.
Honey Process
The removal of the coffee cherry skin and some amount, but not all, of the mucilage. The percent of mucilage left on the bean is sometimes referred to when denoting the coffee, such as, "50% honey," etc.
Mechanically milling the parchment shell from the green coffee after it has been fully dried.
Methylene Chloride Decaf
See Chemical Process.
A "wet" or "dry" milling facility that removes either the skin/pulp or parchment layer, respectively.
Monsooned Coffee
A method of mellowing and aging green coffee used along the Malabar coast of India where coffee is exposed on open patios to monsoon rain and winds for a period of 3 to 4 months. The large, swollen "Monsooned Malabar" beans lose much of their original acicity, becoming almost pH neutral.
The fruit or pulp component of the coffee cherries lying between the outer skin and inner seed (bean).
The process of drying coffee beans in the sun on outdoor (hard) patios (pavement, bricks, terracotta, etc.) as opposed to raised drying beds.
Pulp Natural
This process mechanically removes the skin from the coffee cherry, leaving the bean with its "pulp" (mucilage) still attached to the coffee during the drying stage.
Mechanically removing the skin from the coffee cherry for wet-process, pulped or honey process coffee.
Raised Beds
Long, typically narrow, elevated beds for drying green coffee. Typically, these are made from mesh-like materials (screens), bamboo or the like to allow air to flow underneath the coffee.
Separating milled, green coffee beans through screens with specified whole sizes to sort and grade beans.
This term can mean different things in different places, mainly Brazil and Indonesia, where its use is not always consistent.
Swiss Water Process
This is a process of removing caffeine from green coffee beans using very hot water to remove caffeine (along with all the favorable oils and flavor components), then an activated charcoal filter is used to remove the caffeine. This flavor-saturated water (sans caffeine) is heated and reintroduced to a new batch of green coffee causing the caffeine to dissolve from the beans but the high concentration of other dissolved solids (oils and flavor compounds) in the water are designed to encourage only caffeine from leaching out of this batch of coffee beans.
Refers to Swiss Water Process of decaffeination.
Washing Station
Wet mills are often referred to as "Washing Stations" in East African countries.
Water Process
Similar to Swiss Water Process of decaffeination where beans are soaked in hot water to remove caffeine and other compounds, caffeine is removed from the water and then the decaffeinated water is reintroduced to the coffee in an attempt to restore its flavor. [It is important to note that decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine free, with the FDA allowing coffee to be classified as decaffeinated with 97% caffeine removal.]
Wet Hulled
Wet-hulled coffee is a hybrid process used in parts of Indonesia where the parchment layer of the coffee beans are removed after only a partial drying (25-50%) of the coffee instead of the normal (11-12%) moisture content. These now, exposed green beans are allowed to complete their drying on patios. This process is also called, Giling Basah.
Wet Mill
A processing facility where coffee cherries may have their skins and mucilage removed, and fermented and washed if coffee is wet or washed processed.
Wet Process
Wet-processing involves floating cherries in water to remove defective fruit, mechanically removing the skin and mucilage of the cherry from the bean, fermenting the beans to remove any remaining mucilage clinging to the bean, washed clean and then dried.



A sophisticated device used for accurately measuring color of foodstuffs, including roasted coffee, and assigning numeric values to those colors. In roasted coffee, an "Agtron Number" is the numeric equivalent of a color of roasted coffee and, on the "gourmet scale" of 0-100, these numbers indicate dark to light, respectively.
A chemical reaction of sugars catalyzed by the application of heat during. In coffee roasting, caramelization both creates and decays sugars, with a net result of sugars and flavors that can be more complex and nuanced.
The thin, paper-like "silverskin" attached to the outside of the fully processed green coffee bean that is released during roasting.
The transfer of heat between solids. In coffee roasting, heat is transferred from the walls of the roaster to coffee beans and from bean-to-bean contact.
Transfer of heat through liquids or gasses. In coffee roasting, fluid hot air moving among the beans heats the coffee.
In coffee roasting, this signifies an audible break or snap of the coffee bean as it gives way to its internal pressure caused by heating. During roasting there can be a "first crack" and a "second crack" which mark different chemical transitions within the coffee bean and particular phases in the roast cycle.
Degree Of Roast
This is a term used to generally describe the amount a coffee bean has been roasted, usually simplified by the roasted coffee's color.
In green coffee, density refers to the relative density (weight in proportion to its size) of the coffee. Higher density coffee is typically a sign of higher quality as dense beans are developed more slowly and will roast more uniformly. See this blog post for more information on bean density and how to measure it.
Drum Roaster
A gas or electric roasting machine with a horizontal, rotating drum that mechanically stirs the beans while heat is applied through the heated drum (conduction) and flowing hot air (convection).
A chemical reaction triggered by the application of an outside source of heat to an object, as distinguished from Exothermic.
Environment Temperature
This is the ambient state of temperature of a roasting environment (outside air and roasting drum) without the application of additional heat. This temperature will influence a roasting cycle.
A chemical reaction triggered by the release of heat energy.
A roast defect resulting in scorched coffee.
First Crack
The first audible crack or snap heard during coffee roasting as coffee beans expand to the point where the center cut breaks open.
Fluid Bed Roaster
A roasting machine that uses the motion of hot, fluid air to both heat and agitate the coffee beans.


Maillard Reaction
A chemical reaction of reducing sugars with amino acids that yield desirable flavor characteristics in "browned" or "roasted" foods and plays an important role in coffee roasting.
A thermo-chemical reaction (breakdown) of organic matter triggered by high temperatures. In coffee roasting, this can lead to toasted flavors and eventually carbon if unstopped.
Roast Defect
Any roasting error or other problem encountered during roasting that leaves an undesirable "off" flavor in the cup.
Roast Profile
This is a development of coffee throughout its roast cycle as it pertains to temperature(s) over the duration of time. This is often plotted on a chart as a curve or, visual profile.
A roast defect typically due to high heat intensity during roasting that leaves dark burn marks on the coffee bean.
Second Crack
After the completion of First Crack during the roast cycle and a pause of quiet, the beans will exhibit a second round of audible cracking. Unlike the First Crack which results from bean expansion, the Second Crack signals the basic structure of the coffee begin to decay and collapse. During this phase, oils begin to accumulate on the beans and, if left unchecked, could lead to ignition of fire.
The paper thin layer of dry skin that adheres to the bean surface and center cut, or crack. This becomes Chaff that is released during roasting.
Strecker Degradation
A chemical reaction during roasting, related to and following the Maillard Reaction, Strecker Degradation involves amino acids and carbonyl that create brown pigment in coffee as well as aromatics.
As the name implies, Tipping is a Roast Defect where the tips of the coffee bean are burned dark or black. The resulting flavor taint in the cup is a smokey or burnt taste and diminished sweetness.


Rate of Rise (RoR)
The rate of temperature increase of coffee beans measured during a roast cycle. While coffee beans are typically getting hotter throughout the entire roast cycle, the rate at which it is heating is typically designed to fall. The RoR is technically the derivative of the bean temperature curve.
Failure to sufficiently and thoroughly roast a coffee to its basic level of desirability; typically meaning the roast is too light in color.


Brewing / Cupping

There are a host of acid compounds that make up flavor in coffee including citric, malic, lactic, phosphoric and others.
The presence of acids that contribute to the flavors in coffee. Coffees that have a high acid content are often referred to as "bright" or "lively."
Often referred to as the "finish" like in wine tasting, Aftertaste is the evolution of tastes and sensations that are present after swallowing the coffee.
Often distinguished from Fragrance in coffee evaluation, Aroma refers to the olfactory sensation of smelling coffee that has been introduced to water.
This refers to the relative intermingling of coffee flavors that leave no one feature dominant in the cup.
Blade Grinder (electric)
An electic Mill Grinder refers to a small, home coffee grinding appliance with a chamber filled with coffee beans and ground by a high-speed, spinning blade. Control over the size of grind is managed by the amount of time exposed to the running blade. Different than "Burr Grinder."
This is the sensation in the mouth that perceives relative viscosity of the brewed coffee on the tongue. Light or thin body usually refers to a brew that seems "watery" where heavy or rich body refers to a brew that seems heavier or thicker.
Burr Grinder
A coffee grinder that pulls coffee through a set of sharp, metal disks that are held at precise spacing, insuring a consistent, even grind. Different than Mill Grinder.
Chlorogenic Acid
Coffee has the largest concentration of Chlorogenic Acid, often referred to as caffeoylqunic acid or "CQA" which are often talked about in coffee circles. Coffee has more CQAs than any other species in the plant kingdom. During roasting, CQAs break down dramatically but the byproducts of this breakdown contribute to coffee's flavor and certain antioxidant properties in coffees. However, specific contributions to coffees flavor because of CQAs is somewhat understudied and insufficiently quantified/understood.
Citric Acid
One of the many acids in coffee that contribute to positive taste perception and often displays itself as familiar citrus fruit flavors.
Clean Cup
This refers to a coffee brewed from beans that appear free from any taint or defect.
In cupping, the Crust is the layer of wet coffee grounds that rise and collect on the surface of the cupping bowl.
This term encapsulates a process for the sensory evaluation of coffee which adheres to a prescribed series of details and processes that aim to ensure each coffee sample is prepared and tasted consistently. The purpose of Cupping is to analyze a coffee's quality, possible defects and relative quality.
Cupping Score
The Cupping Score is a number value (ranking) of any coffee according to a 100-point scale, carefully evaluating and scoring 10 different features of any given coffee.
This can refer to any number of problems with a coffee stemming from either growing, harvesting, processing or roasting.
Dirty Cup
This typically refers to a coffee with earthy or grainy features and can also refer to general defect or taint in the cup.
Fragrance, in sensory evaluation of coffee, is the olfactory sensing of dry, ground coffee; differentiated from coffee aroma, which is the scent characteristics of hot, brewed coffee.
This is a term to describe a coffee that has lost flavor or some of its original characteristics because of the age of the green coffee beans.
Flavor Profile
A term used to generally suggest a collection of flavor characteristics of a given coffee. It is sometimes illustrated as a visual representation in graphic form.
Flavor Wheel
The Flavor Wheel is a visual chart and technical tool produced by the SCA that arranges the myriad flavor characteristics that may be found in coffee. It is an adaptation of a similar wheel used in the wine industry.
These volatile compounds make up more than 20% of the components in coffee's aroma.
Mill Grinder (handheld)
A small device typically having a hand crank on top, a chamber for whole beans and a receptacle for ground coffee beneath. Coffee is ground by turning the crank, working in much the same way as a pepper mill.
Phenols can contribute to positive taste attributes of coffee, but in high concentrations, phenols leave an off taste or, as it is called, a "phenolic defect."
Phosphoric Acid
An important and potent non-organic acid that contributes to positive flavors in coffee.
Potato Defect
Triggred by a certain bacteria, this is a defect or taint that produces the aroma of raw potato in the cup. These can be found in certain African coffees.
Quinic Acid
This is an important acid in coffee that contributes to positive features and general cup quality, often presenting itself in familiar citrus flavors such as orange, lemon or grapefruit.
An esoteric term that aims to describe a full or balanced flavor or taste sensation in the mouth.
Sensory Analysis or Evaluation
In coffee, this refers to a process for evaluating, understanding and describing the sensory (taste and olfactory) characteristics of coffee. Cupping is the industry process of Sensory Evaluation.
Is a significant alkaloid in coffee that is perceived as bitter taste and is broken down converted into niacin during roasting.
Wet Aroma
See Aroma.

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