We’re familiar with the term a ‘blend’ of coffee, probably because of the famous Gold Blend brand name; but what does this really mean in our daily cup and how do we know if what we’re buying is actually a good blend?
We blend coffees for the same reason as winemakers or whisky distillers - to bring together the favourable properties of beans from a particular lot or region to create a more rounded, complete coffee in our cup.
Not all coffees are blends
The term ‘Third Wave’ was coined in 1999 and refers to a movement in the coffee industry, where small parcels of single origins were sourced, celebrated and sold by artisan roasters for their individual qualities. ‘Single Malt’ whisky would be a good analogy - you will find distinctive and exciting flavours in single origin coffees; but as with Whisky’s Master Distillers, it takes a talented roaster to choose the right beans and develop a suitable roast profile that stands alone.
The taste properties of coffee
Aroma, acidity, body, flavour and aftertaste are the taste properties of coffee, but not all individual beans have it all; an Ethiopian may have floral aromatics, Sumatran a full body and Kenyan a bright acidity. The skill of the roaster is to blend these types of properties to create the desired taste profile.
Each high street coffee chain has their own style of ‘house blend’. The specific coffees in each chains’ blends will likely change as availability and price of individuals beans fluctuate. Much the same as the Champagne houses maintain their house style with fluctuating availability of grapes. The skill of the roaster and their buyers is to maintain their blend style with different beans.
Blends aren’t always good
Many manufacturers of cheaper mass-produced coffees blend in Robusta beans, a cheaper lower quality alternative to Arabica beans. Then they high roast their coffee to a very dark ‘Italian’ or ‘French’ roast, in which the dark roasting flavours mask the less favourable taste of the coffee beans.
To save time and money, production-led roasters will often blend their green beans in silos then roast them all together. This approach misses the point of quality roasting; that each bean responds differently to temperature over time. When we create a blend, our roasters roast each single component separately to bring out all the flavour of the varietal, then we blend the roasted beans to taste, and pack.
Blends are often best used as a ‘house style’ of coffee. We can help clients find or create a blend suitable for their tastes. Single varietals are exciting and interesting and we supply clients with a variety of these coffees throughout the year that create interest and new distinct flavours in their meeting rooms.