Latest Posts

  1. Quick Guide to our Rwanda and Burundi Coffee Sale!

    Quick Guide to our Rwanda and Burundi Coffee Sale!

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  2. Behmor Roast Profile: Burundi Kayanza Dusangirijambo Coop

    Behmor Roast Profile: Burundi Kayanza Dusangirijambo Coop

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  3. Timor No Leste

    Timor No Leste

    Posted from the road, some thoughts on coffee from East Timor (Timor Leste) and working with small holder farmers.

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  4. Roasting Flores Gunung Gedha on a Popcorn Popper and Quest M3s

    Roasting Flores Gunung Gedha on a Popcorn Popper and Quest M3s

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  5. Aillio Bullet R1 Roaster: Testing Airflow with Rwanda Kageyo

    Aillio Bullet R1 Roaster: Testing Airflow with Rwanda Kageyo

    A look at two extreme examples of airflow settings on the Bullet and how they affect roast development.

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  6. 20% Off Guatemala Sale - Check Out Our "Cheat Sheet" Overview

    20% Off Guatemala Sale - Check Out Our "Cheat Sheet" Overview

    Take advantage of this great discount on these crowd-pleasing coffees.

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  7. Behmor Roast Profile: Ethiopiques 2.0

    Behmor Roast Profile: Ethiopiques 2.0

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  8. Video: Sample Roasting with an Aillio Bullet R1

    Video: Sample Roasting with an Aillio Bullet R1

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  9. Video: Guatemala 2019 Coffee Clips

    Video: Guatemala 2019 Coffee Clips

    A few fairly low tech clips and some thoughts on coffee processing and coffee buying in Guatemala.

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  10. Rwanda + Burundi Fundamentals

    Rwanda + Burundi Fundamentals

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  11. Podcast Episode #21 - Burundi Conversation with Alistair Sequeira - Part 1

    Podcast Episode #21 - Burundi Conversation with Alistair Sequeira - Part 1

    Part 1 of 2 - Talking about the coffee supply chain among other topics

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  12. Colombia: Early Harvest in Nariño

    Colombia: Early Harvest in Nariño

    Harvest in Nariño comes at a time that is somewhat in between the middle and main harvests of our other primary sources of Colombian coffee, namely Urrao and Caicedo in the north, and La Plata and Inzá down south.

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Not Another Fruit Cake! (and what to do about holiday blending?) 

Not Another Fruit Cake! (and what to do about holiday blending?) 
Originally published November 30, 2015, updated November 9th 2018

The holiday fruit cake has a reputation for not actually being eaten. I'm sure there are 'good' ones, but the vast majority with that dense, dry texture and large chewy fruit-candy chunks, change hands several times and are finally relegated to the post-holiday treat table at the office, or even worse, the garbage. In coffee, the 'holiday blends' we see from many of the larger roasters have a similar fate. With more attention paid to packaging than to actual quality, the blend is a way to get rid of old ingredients, coffees already 'long in the tooth.' Like the fruitcake, they offer a cheap gift option to bring to a party, they're stuffed in stockings or passed along at gift exchanges, and most certainly stored in the freezer for much later use, if at all.

On the other hand, for those looking to offer a quality-focused alternative, a holiday blend comes at a great time of the year with no shortage of impressive coffees from Africa and Latin America. A quick review of holiday blend ingredients from some of our customers reveals heavy use of Latin American coffees (probably used as a base), with Kenya, Ethiopia, or both providing highlights and nuanced top notes.

We put together our own holiday blend the past couple of years (Sweet Marias Polar Expresso Holiday Blend returns next week), consisting of all washed African coffees with cup scores above 88 points. The point is, the holiday blend is an opportunity to highlight the availability of great coffees, rather than merely a vessel through which we funnel coffees we've stored the longest (An NPR radio spot that's been playing regularly comes to mind, "brought to you by Peets Coffee, now offering a holiday blend made up of the year's finest beans..." a year is a really long time to hold onto coffee!)

Putting together a holiday blend doesn't have to be all that tricky, and if you're like us, it starts by selecting coffees that you enjoy. For our blend, we knew we wanted to use all African coffees, and so substituted the fairly standard Latin American ingredient with an all bourbon Rwanda to give that sweet base, and allowing the Ethiopian and Kenyan coffees that are used in much smaller amounts to stand out against. The objective was something a bit wilder than a traditional espresso blend, 'special' if you will, and with a level of complexity unattainable by any single ingredient.

Blend combinations are seemingly endless, with the only limiting factor being the number of ingredients you have on hand. They should be fresh tasting, and as such, can be dually used on your single origin list too. The blend should be fun to create, "gift-worthy," and most importantly one you love to drink. And as the stock of fresh-tasting ingredients from Latin American and African regions dwindles, there is an added sense of seasonality, not easily replicable at a different time of the year. We're providing a few recommendations below for coffees we feel more than make the grade so you don't end the year with a "fruit cake". If you need more blend ideas, or basic information on how different coffees can be used in blending, our Blending Resources Article also offers a good starting point.

Happy Holidays!

Blend Bases:

Highlight Coffees:

Most of our coffees can be used in an espresso blend, and we hope our reviews answer any questions you might have. Check the full list HERE as we're adding coffees on a weekly basis through the end of the year.