Make Friends with Blends

In light of the release of Shrub Espresso #1, I wanted to talk a bit about blends. It’s been heartening to see more and more people sharing the components of their espresso blends either on the grinders or on some sort of signage, it speaks to the idea that you can still be transparent with your coffees and still promote them individually even in the context of a blend. There is definitely a skill/talent to putting together a blend for one purpose or another, and in our fascination with “single origin” and what not, we’ve moved further and further away from blending in general with this idea that we want to get people excited about what an individual coffee has to offer. I would argue though that you might even be able to do this more effectively through blending, as well as teach people more about tasting and isolating certain attributes that are given to the cup by one of the blend components.

This doesn’t even address that fact that many “single origin” coffees are blends themselves. This was something that we were recently discussing during one of the cuppings on the RG Brazil trip. Looking at certain separated lots and seeing that one might have a really nice acidity while another had more complex sweetness. Both nice coffees on their own, but together they made a more complete coffee. And this is done a lot of the time in different contexts from different areas. We’ve done this with offerings from Colombia and elsewhere.

This is another case where single mindedness can get in the way of really interesting and enjoyable coffees. Yes, there are some amazing lots of coffee available, and there is a lot of worki in looking for those and offering these coffees. But a lot of work is also put into building interesting coffees by taking some nice individual lots and putting them together to make something that really sings. There is a negative connotation to this a lot of times, with the idea that you’re trying to sneak a bunch of lower quality coffees into a lot of something with a name or reputation, that you’re diluting a nicer coffee with a bunch of something lesser, just to stretch it out and sell it under the reputable name. And this certainly happens, but lesser coffee is lesser coffee, it shows. Just as it shows when great care and effort is put into blending.

I would love to see more and more roasters get back to blending, and doing it in interesting ways where they’re talking about the components and why they chose to use them in that context. I really do feel like it’s a really proactive way to get people thinking about what they taste in a coffee. You’re not saying that there’s 9 different fruit flavors in a coffee, you’re saying that there are these flavors in the cup lent by this or that particular coffee, and that should make it easier for more people to taste difference more successfully, which makes them excited and more willing to try new things. Blends can also be much more approachable to someone because you’re delivering a cup profile that is something perhaps more identifiable. I’m not saying that everyone should just blend and not offer individual coffees, just reminding us that we can be more than one thing and do it in more than one way.

I’m going to be at the Roasters Guild Retreat this weekend, Aug 15th-20th. If you’re coming, please make a point to say hi, excited to see everyone.

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