markk100 wrote: I might suggest that you not develop a palate specific to coffee, rather leverage multiple disciplines to develop an awesome palate.
There are several kinds of tasting and taste.
What Mark is describing here is taste as a form of culture and cultivation -- learning to recognize the good things in life. This is less about blind tasting, learning varietals etc etc, and more about learning the whole foodie, wine, spirits, and now coffee culture. This includes both developing a good all around palate and becoming knowledgeable in what's being done and talked about within this world.
What I was describing is taste as a form of quality control. Every Coca Cola syrup plant has a tasting panel that compares samples being produced there to reference samples. They may not know much about molecular cuisine and single barrel bourbons; but they do know very exactly what Coke tastes like. Dove soap has trained testers washing their hands to the same effect, and Wrigley has testers chew gum. This kind of tasting sounds terribly boring; but if you want to be a coffee expert, it's what you have to learn.
I am an advocate of the second kind of tasting as a big part of being a productive hobbyist. This is especially true of those who recommend coffees and gear; and I take a very dim view indeed of people who make detailed production and product recommendations based on the first kind of tasting. However, the two kinds of tasting need each other. The technical tasters produce the goods, while the cultured tasters are the audience who ultimately decides whether those goods are worthy or not.
Robert Parker's influence on wine is a good case in point. He gained his reputation as a very acute technical taster, but has since graduated into being a wine culture impressario. From this position, his influence on the general level of wine appreciation and demand has been wonderful; demand and appreciation have skyrocketed, and the quality of wine at every price level has improved. But at the same time, his influence on technical wine making has been almost catastrophic; resulting in an endless stream of cookie cutter reds that taste like glycerinated grape jelly.
In short, being a hobbyist is not just about appreciation, but also about participating the the production of the thing. In in order to participate, you need to become a technical proficient taster as well as a cultured one.