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Review: Coffeemind – Smell and Tell.

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Smell and Tell. These three words are the starting point of a journey through the world of aroma’s. Play, learn and above all, enjoy getting better at detecting the aroma’s in a game invented by Coffeemind.

Coffeemind: Background information.

Coffeemind Smell and Tell box

Meet Morten Munchow; masters degree in Biology and Philosophy, coffee roaster, consultant, trainer and founder of Coffeemind. In the year 2014, Morten founded the company Coffeemind to create a platform for scientists working to empower the coffee community with the scientific method in education, product development and quality control.
Ever since that platform was created, the team behind Coffeemind has developed many courses for people in the coffee industry. Roasting courses and sensory courses but also lectures and consultancy are part of their daily business.
Through their passion for helping others through knowledge in Specialty coffee and entrepreneurship, they wanted to deliver great learning experiences from both an enthusiastic and business oriented perspective. Since people tend to learn more effectively while ‘playing’ and having fun, Coffeemind wanted to develop an aroma therapy based game to help people with their sensory skills. The result is a game called Smell and Tell; a innovative way of teaching people about the aroma’s in everyday life through a game of memory.

In 2018 at the World of Coffee Amsterdam, I got to play the Smell and Tell game at their stand. I was impressed right from the start; here was a simple yet super effective way of training your brain to recognize aroma’s by simply playing a game of memory. Ever since, I have seen Smell and Tell pop up more and more on social media all over the world. Companies use the Smell and Tell game to enhance the sensory skills of staff and sensory course participants. In this review I will tell you what I think about this game from a coffee reviewer viewpoint and a father to a son who is highly sensitive to smell, taste and touch.

Smell and Tell: Opening the package.

Smell and Tell contents

The Smell and Tell game comes in a wooden box with a double purpose plastic lid. This lid serves as cover of the box, as well as the playing board of the game itself. Inside the box you will find the following items:

  • Smell and Tell rules and theory book
  • 20 labeled aroma bottles, 2 bottles per aroma.
  • 10 aroma refill capsules
  • 10 aroma name chips
  • 10 ‘I challenge you’ cards
  • 10 ‘penalty’ cards
  • 15 ‘matching pairs cards
  • 15 ‘correct aroma’ cards
  • 15 ‘correct category’ cards
  • 2 pawns
  • 1 playing board/lid

The box is sturdy and the compartments look organized and easy to use. The box is simple yet elegant in it’s design and is easy to stow because it is not too big.

Playing the game.

Coffeemind coffeeattendant

Before you immediately start setting up the board, I recommend to read the instruction book Rules and Theory. Not only does it contain important rules but it also explains how to maintain the contents of this game in the best way possible. For example on when to refill the aroma’s or what to do when cross-contaminating aroma’s by accident. But that’s not all! When you’re about to go on this journey through your senses by playing Smell and Tell, it is important to know what those senses are. How do you taste and smell and what exactly is taste and smell. Coffeemind added a crucial part of information in the book that will immensely help you on your way.

This game can be played in two official ways:
– Aroma Bottle-to-Token comparison
– Aroma Bottle-to-Bottle comparison

During my review I played this game alone (20 mins), with my wife and my son with one of his friends (30mins to 45 mins). The reason that I mention my son and his friend is because they are both highly sensitive to touch, smell and taste. I wanted their opinion on the game since their senses might react differently to the aroma’s and the game in comparison to people with less developed senses. This is in no way a scientific research although I do believe that games like Smell and Tell could be an absolute joy for people who like a fixed set of rules and ‘pure’ noon-contaminated game contents like aroma’s.

A reviewers point of view.

Smell and Tell review

As a reviewer I come across numerous aroma’s, flavours and mouthfeel’s while drinking coffee. To train my palette I always smell pieces of fruit and flowers but also try to really taste my food and drinks. Still there are some aroma’s that I mix up more easily than others. The Smell and Tell game is a way for me to familiarize with certain aroma’s even more.

What I noticed is how ‘simple’ it is to set up a game of Smell and Tell; within 5 minutes you’re ready to start playing. The game is fun and challenging and will keep you on your toe’s with certain aroma’s. While doing a Bottle-to-Bottle game you need to open two bottles and smell the aroma inside. When you think you have a match, just look at the underside of the bottle to see if you’re correct. If you are not correct, or you don’t have a match to begin with, place the bottles back on the playing board.
Determining the aroma’s is so much fun and sometimes really messes with your ‘knowledge’. I mixed up the raspberry and strawberry a couple of times and it made me realize that there is still so much to learn and train.
Although it is fun to play alone, it’s even more fun to play with someone else. This is because Coffeemind introduced a challenge aspect to the game which makes it more exciting.

When my wife and I were playing this game we played both game modes and had a blast. When the person across from you smells an aroma, it’s your turn to smell that aroma as well. Depending on the game mode, the other person either takes another bottle and passes it on or flips one of the token which are placed on the board. If the person across proclaims a match, you can always challenge that person if you think that it isn’t a match at all. This becomes even more fun when playing with three or four people since only the fastest player to grab a challenge card has the opportunity to score (or lose) points.
You can score points by guessing the right category, the right aroma and of course a matching pair, point deductions come from wrongly challenging a player.
The best part of this game is when someone smells a ‘bad’ aroma. My wife, for example, dislikes Lavender a lot and to see her cringe when smelling that aroma is pure fun!

My son and his friend playing the game.

Smel and Tell kids playing

I supervised the Bottle-to-Bottle game when my son and his friend played the Smell and Tell game. Neither of them had any experience in playing and it made it all the more fun. Their senses reacted way more intense to the aroma’s and so did their facial expressions when they smelled Smoke or Thyme for example. Keeping the board organized when two kids are playing was quite a challenge because sometimes they would put the bottles back on a different position on the board. Afterwards I asked them to rate the game and give some feedback.
My son and his friend gave this game an 8/10 and a 8.5/10.
They loved how the simple game of memory was turned into a challenging game by adding aroma’s. The aroma’s had enough strength to them at first and they were recognizable but hard to determine. It made the challenge of guessing which aroma they were smelling even more fun. Although they seemed to have less difficulty in matching the aroma’s, the most difficult part was indeed determining what the aroma’s were. There was one point where they both smelled raspberry and kept giving the bottle to each other because they loved the aroma so much.

Alternate uses for the Smell and Tell.

Smell and Tell game modi

Aside from playing the game according to the set game modes that you will find in the book, you can also invent your own rules. In the Bottle-to-Token mode you could just randomly pick tokens and bottle so that you don’t know how many matches there are on the board.
Or how about playing a game of Bluff-and-Tell; player 1 takes a bottle, smells and makes a statement about the aroma. It could be the truth, or it’s a bluff. P2 has the opportunity to call the person’s bluff and smell the bottle as well.
If player 1 wasn’t called on a bluff, he receives +1 point without having to show the bottle. That bottle is not taken out of the game.
If player 2 calls a bluff, player 1 needs to disclose the label of the bottle.
If player 1 bluffed and got caught he receives no points and player 2 gets +2 points.
If player 1 did not bluff, player one gets +1 point and player 2 gets -2 points.
After a bluff being called, the bottle is taken out of the game.

It is also possible to use the Smell and Tell game while tasting your coffee. What aroma’s do I get on the brew? Is it floral? fruity? nutty? Perhaps you recognize flavours by smelling as well. I highly recommend using these aroma’s when drinking your coffee, it will clearly help you on your way to become a better judge of your own coffee.

Coffeemind – Smell and Tell: The verdict.

Coffeemind smell and Tell playing

Coffeemind is a company that focusses on research, training and development of sensory (and roasting) aspects in the world of specialty coffee. By creating the Smell and Tell game, they made the perfect mix of learning and playing for young and old. I have already seen this game being implemented in sensory courses and I am using it during my coffee reviewing or when I have some spare time on my hands.
The contents of the box are sufficient to keep you occupied for a long time. Playing more than two games in a row is not recommended because your senses will get tired eventually.
To me it says a lot that kids with high sensitivity rate this game so high. It is simple yet challenging. Instead of a myriad of set rules (often open to interpretation) like other games, this game has simple rules and makes use of their strong suit; their senses.
As a reviewer I highly recommend this game because it makes you aware of all the aroma’s out there. It also gives you a way of learning about aroma’s (and flavours) in your coffee (or wine and Whiskey e.g.) and to train your brain in remembering them more easily.
In terms of a family game this also scores high on my list. The challenge-aspect makes this a fun to play game, it doesn’t take up too much of your time and is easy to set up. Tired of playing the two modes provided by Coffeemind? just go and create your own game mode and have some more fun! Smell and Tell does exactly what it is meant to do and does it superbly.

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