“WHAT’S IN A BLEND?”
The most commonly asked question when we work behind a Café counter – “What blend do you use? “Or “what’s in the blend?” This seemingly simple question is in fact quite a complicated one to answer.
To start off, it helps to look at Blending as an art similar to culinary science.
“What’s in your blend?” – The answer, a mix of factors – from the coffee’s Geographic location, the percentage of each type of bean in the mix, the coffee varietal used, and the processing method employed.
Further, the Roasting degree of each of these coffees to balance and complement each other as well as the blend, resulting in a unique and desirable beverage, is another key factor.
Various coffees are mostly mixed to create new tastes and for economic and geographic reasons.
In a large number of coffee consuming countries, such as India, Brazil, and Mexico, blends are more predominant and single origin coffees are tough to come by.
SO, WHY BLEND COFFEE?
Coffee being an agricultural and a natural product, is subject to Quality and Quantity change based on the harvest.
By Blending coffees, Roasters are able to maintain consistent Quality through their signature blends.
Coffees from different origins carry distinct aromas, and varying balances of bitter, sweet and body characteristics by blending, characteristics of the single varieties complement, balance and optimize each other. What’s more, when done right, blends create superior taste profiles than their single-origin counterparts.
Blending, followed by roasting of the coffee beans, is more than a technical ability. It is truly a genuine art form. Nothing less than mastery is required to create a harmonious whole.
As Coffee differs year to year, a fixed formula is not the answer to a good blend. A deep understanding of different coffees from different origins, and identifying their complementary traits determines the quality of a well-balanced blend.
TASTE PROFILES & PROCESSING METHODS
Every country of origin is unique and stands out for Its own qualities.
You might find that you like the fruitiness of an Ethiopian coffee, the balanced and sweet notes of a Guatemalan, or the earthiness of an Indonesian – but you won’t know the specifics until you try these origins.
Similarly, Arabica and Robusta taste different and have a unique profile based on the country of origin.
Indian Arabica tends to be full, round, sweet, occasionally spicy or chocolaty, but usually a bit listless. Relatively low growing elevations and the use of disease-resistant hybrids that often have been back-crossed with Robusta probably contribute to this full but often inert profile.
Arabica beans tend to be lighter, fruitier, acidic, and more floral in taste and aroma. Robusta beans are heavier, woody, earthier, and more bitter. Arabica and Robusta Coffee also have different amounts of caffeine, sugar, lipids, and antioxidants.
Although both Arabica and Robusta belong to the overarching Coffea genus, there are key differences between both types of beans that manifest themselves in every step of the coffee growing and harvesting, roasting, and consumption processes.
Also, the processing methods adopted at the farm level have a significant influence on the final profile of the coffee.
Wet/washed Processes: This results in a clean cup with less body. It makes it easier to avoid undesirable fermentation but is also more expensive.
Natural/dry Processes: The coffee is dried with the fruit still attached, leading to sweetness, fruity notes, and a full body. It’s cheaper than washed processing but it can be hard to control – it needs good quality control and consistent weather conditions.
Is the Lead for Coffee Academy & Flavour Science at Humblebean
He was the Quality assistant manager at Tata Coffee, and Lead production-in-charge for Roast & Ground and Starbucks operations. He holds a Masters in Coffee Economics and Science (University of Trieste, Italy) Scholarship from Ernesto Illy Foundation. Gaurav will help set up Humblebean’s Coffee lab & academy, and expand our blend development initiatives.