As most of you already know, we promote our Highground blend as a blend of three rotating coffees we source from our partners all over the world. The speciality coffee industry is growing rapidly and by consequence more coffee enthusiasts are interested in what we do as a speciality coffee roastery. Following this interest, the question arises why we blend coffees, and why some of us in the industry do not. As a speciality coffee roaster, our aim is to educate people not only about what we do here at our roastery but at large about coffee roasting. I therefore thought it would be a
good idea to write a short article on the specs of coffee blending.
The main reason why we blend different coffees is rather simple. That is, our customers (cafes, restaurants, ...) have in turn their own customers (coffee drinkers) who are expecting the same cup of coffee the whole year round. There is nothing more annoying than ordering 'the usual' and then getting a drink that
tastes noticeably different from last week’s.
That is why as a roastery we need to provide a coffee blend that is consistent in taste. The difficulty lies in the fact that coffee is a seasonal produce. Coffee beans are harvested only once or twice a year in most coffee producing countries and are therefore limited in their availability. You could argue the possibility of buying enough coffee to last you a year and then buy the next harvest. This is rarely done due to several reasons: most roasteries do not have enough storage space; green coffee loses its quality over time; it requires huge purchasing power, and can only be done with coffees coming from big producers. This is why it is necessary to change or rotate all components of a given coffee blend. Therefore, we look for coffees that complement each other to achieve a certain profile. The profile is defined by how we would like the blend to taste. For example, with the Highground blend, our aim is to create a full-bodied coffee with enough caramel sweetness and fruity acidity so as to shine as a black coffee (espresso, americano) as well as to punch through milk (latte, cappuccino, ...). In order to accomplish that, we look for coffees that fulfil these characteristics together. For instance, one component can be very present with its mouthfeel, while another can complement in sweetness.
To keep consistency, we therefore only change one component at a time.
Now, you might wonder how to choose which coffee would be more suitable to go in the blend. For that, we take into account certain variables we are familiar with, such as altitude, variety, process method, number of defects, harvest time, and so on. On this basis, we request coffee samples from trusted exporters and importer, as well as straight from producers. It is only after several cupping sessions (coffee tasting) that we decide which coffee will be suitable for the blend.
Or not to blend.
There are some arguments against creating a blend, resulting in only offering what is called single origin coffee. I would like to take the opportunity to put these arguments in perspective and stress the fact that it is just a matter of choice, not quality, to blend or not. Hence, there is no right or wrong in what you decide to offer as a roastery and it does not exclude the fact that you can produce both blends and single origin coffees.
With the concept of speciality coffee in mind, one might argue that a given coffee loses its unique character if blended with other beans. In my opinion, this is not necessarily so. On the contrary, a blend component is chosen in order to highlight its intrinsic characteristics and to shine through with its assets. Should this not be the case, you might not have chosen the right coffee. Furthermore, some argue that the efforts of the producer are not valued by mixing his or her product with other growers’ coffees. To avoid this, it is important to inform about the coffee’s origin. An important objection to blending is that one can use a cheaper, low quality coffee without people noticing. Although this might be a common practice, I do believe people would taste the difference in quality.
At Roasted Rituals Coffee we pay as much attention to our
blend components as to our single origin coffees.
One last argument is that blending can make things easier and faster for the roaster. This actually covers the subject of pre-blending and post-blending. Pre-blending means to mix your coffees first and then roast them together in the same batch; post-blending refers to roasting every coffee individually and blend them afterwards.
Those in favour of pre-blending will argue that the coffees 'grow towards each other' while roasting. By undergoing the same process in the machine, they will taste better together as a blend. This practice will indeed speed things up at the roastery as you do not need to create a separate roasting profile for each component. Those in favour of post-blending will state that you might lose the individual characteristics
and therefore create a boring tasting blend.
Here at Roasted Rituals Coffee we roast every coffee separately to let each coffee develop its potential and to let each component play its role in the blend.
Obviously, there are many factors to take into account. There is no right or wrong here, but just the approach of the roaster towards blending.
You might have walked into your local coffee shop hearing the term 'house blend', explained to you by a passionate barista behind the counter. This means they offer a coffee blend especially created to meet their expectations. One might want specific tasting notes with a certain roast degree. As a business owner, this is a great way to set yourself apart from other cafes and to actually be involved in the creation of a coffee blend. I believe this can be an opportunity to invest in the roastery-cafe relationship
as part of the local speciality coffee industry.
Mixing things up
As a final note, I would like to stress the fact that we want to coffee to be accessible to everyone. This means being flexible in what we offer in terms of blends and single origins, and have a regular coffee rotation to keep things exciting. No matter what your approach is, we believe that the quality of the coffee should always be the centre point, without forgetting the people involved such as the coffee producers as well as the consumers.