Reflections on the Art of Coffee Blending: Daily Drinkers With Personality

Diedrich IR-7 coffee roaster at Old Soul Co in 2006, used to roast the initial Whiskey Dreams Moka Java Blend. Thanks To Andri Tambunan. The idea of the coffee mix is a long and winding roadway. Blends give roasters a chance to develop a coffee that stimulates particular sensory homes, and blends are often developed to provide consumers a consistent experience with time(similar to a Champagne house approaches the non-vintage brut). However before consumers began firmly insisting upon knowing the origins of what’s in their cup, it wasn’t all that common for roasters to identify mix components on the bag, or even always show that a coffee isa mix. In this month’s report, we think about the” home blend,” a full 25 years after Kenneth Davids, co-founder of Coffee Review, composed this publication’s first-ever report, which took place to be on this really topic. Embedded because very first report is a short history of Coffee Review’s origin story, including an argument for score coffees on a 100-point scale and a decoding of the 5 sensory classifications we still utilize as a basis for our rankings.

What Is Different, And What Has Stayed the Same?

The fact that we no longer get the phone to buy coffee by mail notwithstanding, one significant modification remains in the large number of coffees available to customers. Ken reviewed 12 coffees for this report in 1997, and they were all from big roasters like Starbucks, Peet’s, Green Mountain and Gevalia (with the exception of Mendocino, California’s Thanksgiving Coffee, which was small, at the time). In 2022, there are countless roasters in cities throughout the U.S., little and big, practically all of which have at least one house mix. Add to that our reviews of coffees from worldwide roasters, especially Taiwan, and the number of possibilities is staggering.

What remains the same is our method to blind cupping. We still cup coffees without knowing their identities, and we still utilize our five-category 100-point scale to examine both innovative/experimental and traditional coffee types.

Home Blends as Creative License

In 2022, the story of coffee and its intricate supply chain is front and center, as it ought to be for those people who enjoy it, and blends typically get as much factor to consider as special single-origin coffees. They give roasters a possibility to craft new stories based not only around origins and processing approaches but likewise around roasters’ own stories of time and location. In the best examples, mixing has actually become a downright Proustian affair.

The “house mix” has actually historically indicated consistency, familiarity and value. But times are changing, and we now see other methods, too, including the “omni” or “all-purpose” blend that works also in espresso and cold-brew format as it does in batch-brew and pourover, and unique seasonal blends that change with each brand-new crop and are not developed to stay constant over time. And even more traditional blends are generally provided with higher detail: why these green coffee parts, why these processing methods, how these coffees play well together– and possibly more significantly, what concepts and feelings a particular mix is developed to evoke, often revealed in conceptual names. (It appears that the old “breakfast mix” isn’t as luring as it when was.)

In the 1997 House Blends report, the 12 coffees examined scored between 68 and 90. Only one sample revealed the origins of the coffees inside the bag, and the disclosure was extremely basic: “Indonesia, Central and South America.” These blends were most significantly separated by roast level, which varied from rather light to extremely dark.

However of the nearly 80 samples we cupped for this report, about 90% are “special” in some method, even if designed to be affordable and familiar. All reveal the blend parts, either on the bag or on the roaster’s site, or both. The 10 blends we examine here scored in between 92 and 94 and represent a range of sensory possibility, from the nostalgic to the book.

Traditional, Familiar Blends

Even though most of the coffees we see originating from Taiwan roasters are light-roasted microlots, Kakalove Café is choosing a darker-roasted tribute to Mayan culture with its Obsidian Mirror Blend (93 ), which owner Caesar Tu says is named for the stone that was very important to Mayans for both practical and ritual functions, while likewise implying that one ought to drink this coffee black. A blend of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras coffees, it is abundant and deep, with chocolate notes recommending fudge, and a whisper of comfortingly familiar roastiness.

Charlotte Coffee Company’s 704 Blend (93 ), named for the North Carolina city’s area code, is a mix of 2 pedigreed cleaned coffees, Tsekaka Papua New Guinea and Guatemala Finca San Gerardo, which result in a super-sweet, caramelly cup with flower foundations and an abundant nuttiness.

Bag of Mo ‘Better Brews’Bleek & Indigo Blend. Thanks to Mo ‘Better Brews. Houston’s Three Keys Coffee just released the Mo’Better Brews Bleek & Indigo Blend (92), created for a local vegan breakfast, coffee and vinyl store. Consisted of a washed Colombia and a natural-processed Ethiopia, it ‘s both deeply chocolaty and tartly fruit-toned. Co-owner Kenzel Fallen states the name is a nod to Spike Lee’s 1990 movie Mo’Better Blues about a jazz trumpeter, an association that resonates well with both the store and its vinyl theme and Three Keys’ own music referencing, which appears in all of the brand name’s coffees.

Adam Monaghan, Succulent Coffee’s co-founder, says its New Wave Blend (92) is developed not just to be drunk every day, but all the time. Created as a batch brew to work both fuel and play, it’s a fruit-forward counterpoint to cleaned Central America-heavy blends, more of a new-classic method, if you will. A washed Colombia (imported by Royal) provides the chocolaty base, while a natural Ethiopia (imported by Catalyst) gives it foreground and lift.

Omni Blends

A trend we saw most prominently in this report cupping is the development of the “omni” or “all-purpose” blend. Possibly the pandemic has actually made us all wish to streamline our lives, or possibly the trend towards lighter-roasted espresso is finally intersecting with the pattern towards slightly darker drip preferences, landing in a medium-roast wheelhouse that works quite well across a variety of formats.

Bag of Memory Lane Blend by Nostalgia Coffee Roasters, revealed with a 92-point Coffee Review medallion from 2021. Courtesy of Nostalgia Coffee Roasters. San Diego-based Nostalgia Coffee’s Memory Lane Blend(93)may have fallen under the timeless category if not for its wide variety of applications. Fond memories creator Taylor Fields, who introduced the brand name as a mobile shop as the pandemic started to take hold, states she needed her first coffee release to do a great deal: “We desired a real home blend that would do it all and, more importantly, be a deck pounder and enjoyed by all types of coffee drinkers from newbies to connoisseurs.” A Brazil natural contributes body, a Guatemala, nutty sweetness, and a Sumatra, earthy depth.

Label of Battlecreek Coffee Roasters ‘House Blend. Courtesy of Battlecreek Coffee Roasters. Battlecreek Coffee’s House Blend(92)brings an uncomplicated name to indicate that it’s a staple, but simply above that name, the two carefully chosen single-origin coffees that comprise it are noted: a natural Ethiopia Shakiso and a washed Guatemala Huehuetenango, both of which Battlecreek sells as standalone coffees. Director of Coffee Josh de Jong states this coffee was developed for a partner cafe that serves espresso drinks, cold brew in summer, pourovers, and batch brew, so they needed something crowd-pleasing and active. Gently intense, citrusy and spice-toned, this mix is both versatile and accessible.

Valkyrie (92)– yes, of Norse mythology– is Small Eyes Café’s daily coffee, developed to be budget-friendly and friendly. Honduras, Brazil and Ethiopia coffees combine for a cocoa-toned, flower cup. It’s not clear how the name intersects with the coffee, however it sure is appealing for those primarily in pursuit of caffeine. Owner/roaster Tom Chuang states he developed it for usage as espresso, however it works well as a filter coffee, too.

Imaginative Originals

And after that we have coffees that refuse to be tamed by convention. First amongst them is Old Soul’s Whiskey Dreams ( 94 ), called not for its barrel-aging (no, it’s not one of those) however for how the sweet ferment of the Ethiopia natural-processed element stimulates bourbon. The other part, co-owner Jason Griest describes, is a Sumatra Adsenia Triple Pick imported by Royal Coffee, which, combined with the fruity Ethiopia Dur Feres G3 from Catalyst Trade, results in a fourth-wave mocha java (here spelled “moka java), the classic mix formula that generally combines a wet-hulled Indonesia coffee with a natural-processed Yemen. In addition to calling out his long time importer-partners, Griest acknowledges his previous roaster, Ryan Harden, and his existing roaster, Brad Terry, for collaborating with him on the mix. He points out that “Components matter, exporters and importers matter, and roasters matter,” seconding the concentrate on traceability widely embraced in specialized coffee today.

Black Level Blend by St1 Cafe/Work Room in Tainan City, Taiwan. Courtesy of St1 Cafe.

New Tainan City, Taiwan roaster St1 Cafe, which runs a coffee shop and work area, uses the Black Level Blend (94) comprised of coffees from Kenya and Colombia. Sweetly mouthwatering and deep-toned, it shows notes of cocoa nib, ripe tomato, lemon verbena, star jasmine, and cedar. Roaster Carrie Chang states the idea started with a two-Kenya blend utilized in a canned espresso martini, modified here to consist of a cleaned Colombia to tone down the Kenyas and contribute traditional chocolate notes.

Another roaster that is flipping the script is Taiwan-based Fumi Coffee, whose First Love Blend (92) is what we at Coffee Review call a caution coffee, suggesting that not everyone will enjoy it, however if you do, you really do. The most experimental coffee among the 10 we examine here, it combines an Ethiopia natural-processed Uraga and a double-washed Kenya with a Colombia fermented in a specifically ready culture of yeasts, sugars and passionfruit. The outcome is an umami-fruit bomb. Roaster/owner Yu Chih Hao states he was going for a coffee not quickly forgotten, and this extreme cup fits that bill.

No matter how you brew, or what style of coffee you choose, it’s about time to reconsider blends. The consideration and creativity entering into home blends these days– in sourcing, integrating, roasting, developing, and calling– is spirited, major, traditionally appropriate, accurate, evocative– and, obviously, delicious.

We hope you enjoy this full-circle trail from Coffee Review’s initially report, released 25 years ago, to this account of the diverse, amazing house blends offered today.

This post was inspired by the article at Coffee Review, a website specializing in coffee reviews, espresso ratings, informative articles, and coffee blogs written by coffee experts.

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