Sept - Oct 2001: Why (not) Blend Coffee; The Terrorist Tragedy

Sept - Oct 2001: Why (not) Blend Coffee; The Terrorist Tragedy

Why (not) Blend Coffee
In the trade, coffees from different origins are blended together for several reasons; to create a brand, to create a coffee of consistent flavor from season to season, or to cut costs. But the notion that blending, akin to the skill of a master chef, represents a higher level of "coffee connoisseurship" is dubious. Rather than thinking of "roasting recipes" as the signature of coffee style, perhaps it is better to reference of the world of wine, where the purity of the cultivar and regional nuances, appellations, are the highest principles of consumption.

Blending for Cup Quality: Some might say the goal of blending is to create better "cup quality" than any of the ingredients individually. But high quality arabica coffee should be able to stand alone, the basis for calling it "specialty coffee." Yes, some origins are weighted towards a particular quality and lacking in others: an Indonesian with tons of body and no brightness; a Central American with lively acidity and little body. But this is why we seek coffees from specific origins and specific farms: to appreciate their difference. And why diminish two greatly distinct coffees by mixing them when there is a probably another origin that strikes the balance you seek? In the trade, only in the case of lower quality ingredient coffees can their sum total exceed the cup quality of excellent single-origin, unblended coffees.

Blending for Branding: Another reason to blend is to create a proprietary or signature blend that leads consumers to equate a particular coffee profile with a particular brand image. Consumers don't often call Starbucks by the origin names used in the coffee but simply as "a cup of Starbucks." It is as if the dark carbony roast tastes were somehow exclusive to that brand. So blends inherently refer to the place where the coffee was bought, and create allegiance to the retail source rather than creating awareness of the true flavor-origins: the farm, the region, the cultivar, the soil, the altitude, the hard work of the farmer, etc.

Blending for Consistencey: Coffees are also blended to attain consistency from crop year to year. This is done with major brands that do not want to be dependent on any specific origin flavor so they can obtain coffee from the least expensive sources at any given time. You will find similar practices in other industries relying of organic products: Budweiser is said to use some 20 types of hops, whereas micro-brewed beers have perhaps 2 to 4 types. Such blends generally reduce all the coffees included to the lowest common denominator. And in a competitive marketplace, unidentifiable blend ingredients mean that the corporation can substitute based solely on cost: switching to the lowest cost, exploitable source will not be detected by consumers.

So you are determined to create blends … Before blending any high-quality coffees you should know the flavors of the individual coffees and have some goal for an ideal cup that cannot be attained by a single origin or single degree of roast. It would be a shame to blend a fantastic Estate coffee ...after all, you are supposedly trying to attain a cup that exceeds the components and its not likely you can do this with top coffees. And given that you have both a reason to a blend and a logical process for doing it, there will be little need for more than around 5 coffees in the blend. Blends with more than 5 coffees are considered to be fanciful, or indulgent, or confused by more than a few expert coffee trades-people I know.

So what are those "good reasons" to blend: well, there's Melange or French roasts, and Espresso. In the case of a Melange you are blending after roasting, and you are blending coffees roasted to differing "degrees of roast." An example would be blending a French Roast Mexican coffee (for carbony notes) with a Medium "City" roast Colombian (for body). You can also create a Melange of two different roasts of the same coffee, such as a City Roast and Vienna Roast of Colombian blended together. There are many single-origin coffees that create good French Roasts, especially Sumatra, Ethiopian dry-processed, Uganda, Tanzania, and Colombian. But in some cases you want to blend to maintain body in the cup, since roasting dark has the negative effect of incinerating the soluble solids that create the sense of body. The other case to blend is espresso. Yes, there are some great single-origin coffees to try as espresso, and among our customers Sulawesi is one of the most popular. But espresso extraction exaggerates some qualities in the coffee and diminishes other. Bright acidy coffees are unbearable as single-origin espresso. Yet a bright Central American as 10% of a blend can add good aroma and a sharp pleasant note to the espresso as part of a blend.

For many more ideas about specific Melange, French Roast, and Espresso blends, please see our blending web page at this address:

http://www.sweetmarias.com/blending.html

Our Bias: While it is clear that blending requires the skill of knowing each ingredient coffee, having a clear cup profile in mind as the goal, and knowing how to achieve it, blends should not be considered a "higher" form of coffee by any standard. For me, there is much more satisfaction in enjoying single-origin and estate coffees roasted to their peak of flavor. Even a so-so single-farm coffee is more intriguing than a blended cup ...even if the blend is admittedly superior! Why? Because when I taste an unblended coffee it is the end result of a long road from crop to cup, without any one person (or with large corporations, the ubiquitous "focus group") deciding what I will be experiencing. While I enjoy that cup, I like to think about that process, and it informs my opinion about that region or that specific farm. I enjoy feeling connected to the origin of the coffee and the process in this way...

The Terrorist Tragedy
Sweet Maria’s is donating 10� for each and every pound of coffee sold between 9/11/01 and 10/11/01 to victim’s family funds and disaster relief. The disaster affected the coffee trade directly, demolishing the New York coffee exchange trading facility in Building 4 of the World Trade Center.

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Sweet Marias Green Coffee Offerings on 9/28/01:
This list is always superceded by the current list on our web page! http://sweetmarias.com/prod.greencoffee.shtml

Central American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Costa Rican Tres Rios -La Magnolia $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Costa Rican La Minita Tarrazu $7.10 $13.49 $31.60 $113.60

Guatemalan Antigua - Bella Carmona $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Guatemalan Finca El Injerto '01 $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Guatemalan SHB Huehue -Finca Huixoc $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Guatemalan Org. Atitlan -La Voz FT $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Mexican Chiapas Org.La Alianza $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Mexican Oaxaca Pluma -El Olivo Farm $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Mexican Org. San Augustin Loxicha $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Mexican Oaxaca San Pablo Becafisa $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Nicaragua Matagalpa Eugenio Lopez $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Nicaragua Segovia Canta Gallo Co-op $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Panama Boquete -Finca Maunier $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

El Salvador - San Rafael Naranjo $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

South American 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Brazil Mogiani Bourbon- Sun-dried $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Brazil Organic -Blue de Brasil $4.90 $9.31 $21.32 $75.46

Brazil Cerrado-Monte Carmelo $4.20 $7.98 $18.27 $64.68

Colombian Popayan Supremo -Lot1406 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Colombian Caracol del Abuelo-Peaberry $5.30 $10.07 $23.06 $81.62

Colombian Santa Isabella Var.Typica $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Peru Org-FT Chanchamayo La Florida $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

African- Arabian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Ethiopian Ghimbi DP '01 $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Ethiopian Harar Horse - Lot1900 $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Ethiopian Organic Limmu -Oromia $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Ethiopian Yirgacheffe -Lot 957 $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Kenya AB Gaturiri Farm Auction Lot'01 $5.90 $11.21 $25.67 $90.86

Kenya AB Gichugu Auction Lot'01 $5.60 $10.64 $24.36 $86.24

Tanzanian Northern Peaberry 00-01 $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Tanzanian AA Ruvuma Flatbean '01 $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Uganda Organic Bugisu A $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Yemen Mokha Ismaili (Hirazi) $7.90 $15.01 $36.74 $126.40

Yemen Mokha Mattari $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00

Yemen Mokha Raimi (Rimy) $6.90 $13.11 $30.02 $110.40

Yemen Mokha Sanani '01 $7.00 $13.30 $30.45 $112.00

Zambian AA Isanya Estate $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Indonesian- Indian 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Indian Monsooned Malabar AA $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Indian Pearl Mountain Flatbean $4.50 $8.55 $19.58 $69.30

Aged Java - Old Brown '97 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48

Papua New Guinea Organic AA $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Sulawesi Toraja Gr. 1 -Lot1504 '01 $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

Sumatra Lintong Grade 1 '01 $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Sumatra Mandheling DP Gr.1 '01 $4.75 $9.03 $20.66 $73.15

Sumatra Lake Tawar 18+ $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16

Sumatra Organic Gayoland '01 FT $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Aged Sumatra Mandheling '98 $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48

Islands- Blends -Etc. 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Maui Kaanapali Moka '01 $11.20 $21.50 $52.08 n-a

Puerto Rican Yauco Selecto A $10.90 $20.71 $50.69 n-a

SM's Moka Kadir Blend $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32

SM's Espresso Monkey Blend $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

SM's Classic Italian Espresso Blend $4.80 $9.12 $20.88 $73.92

SM's Decaf Espresso Blend $5.70 $10.83 $24.80 $87.78

SM's French Roast Blend $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Malabar Gold Espresso Blend $6.00 $11.40 $26.10 $92.40

Decafs 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Brazil Santos SWP Decaf $5.40 $10.26 $23.49 $83.16

Colombian MC Decaf $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Colombian CO-2 Decaf $5.50 $10.45 $23.93 $84.70

Costa Rican SHB Natural Decaf $4.70 $8.93 $20.45 $72.38

Ethiopian Ghimbi MC Decaf $5.10 $9.69 $22.19 $78.54

Guatemala Atitlan Org-FT SWP Decaf $6.20 $11.78 $26.97 $95.48

Indonesian Komodo Blend Org SWP D $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94

Kenya MC Decaf -German KVW $5.25 $9.98 $22.84 $80.85

Mexican Cepco Co-op Natural Decaf $4.60 $8.74 $20.01 $70.84

Mexican Chiapas Org/FT SWP Decaf $6.10 $11.59 $26.54 $93.94

Sumatra Mandheling Natural Decaf $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Sumatra Gayo Mtn. Org.SWP Decaf $5.80 $11.02 $25.23 $89.32

Premium Robustas 1 lb 2 lb 5 lb 20 lb

Indian Kaapi Royale Robusta $5.00 $9.50 $21.75 $77.00

Indian Monsooned Robusta AA $5.20 $9.88 $22.62 $80.08

Java Washed Robusta $4.30 $8.17 $18.71 n-a

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