TO BLEND OR NOT TO BLEND.
That is the question.
a mixture of different substances or other things."the chutney is a blend of bananas, raisins, and ginger"
When we're talking about blending, it can be as simple as just mixing different things together.
We take two coffees, and mix them together.
Unfortunately this rarely produces an espresso that tastes any good.
I wish it did, because it would save us a whole load of work.
At Commonfolk we take our blending a little further.
Firstly, we have a flavour goal that we want to achieve.
In the case of Progress St. we want a blend that is sweet, dense and doesn't disappear in milk. We also want this blend to deviate from the standard ‘coffee’ flavour we all expect when drinking a latte.
We want it to taste adventurous and push the envelope - giving you a glimpse at what different coffees can taste like. We want to add unorthodox flavours and add complexity via acidity to give the drinker an experience that is familiar but also interesting.
Progress St. is always designed to be great with and without milk.
We could go looking for a single coffee from a single estate that his all of these descriptors. The only problem, is that a coffee this complex and dynamic is very hard to produce in nature.
A single coffee like this is likely to be pretty expensive. It will have been hard to produce and as such, probably won't be available in great volume.
If we found a coffee like this we would need to regularly change it because of the limited supply and any form of ‘consistency’ of flavour would go out the window.
Customers would also be paying a pretty penny due to the effort the farmer has go in growing this spectacular coffee.
I'm not saying that a single origin could never be a ‘house blend’. We've even done it before at Commonfolk.
We had an opportunity to buy a spectacular coffee at a great price, and for four weeks we sold Finca La Soledad from Guatemala as our house coffee.
Having the stars align like this is pretty rare though.
So to give you a coffee and experience that is really exciting we have to blend.
Almost all coffees are a ‘blend’ in some form or another.
We could be talking about a blend of regions, a blend of plantations, a blend of lots within a plantation, elevations and a blend of varietals. Pretty much anything larger than a single cherry with a mutation known as a ‘pea berry’ (single seed) is a blend in some form.
So how do we blend here at Commonfolk.
With the flavour goal in mind we search for coffees that exhibit the characteristics we want to show you.
We look for coffees with great sweetness. We look for a coffee with a bold syrupy body. We look for a coffee that displays a great fruit like character. We buy a coffee that has a fresh crisp acidity.
We test moisture content and bean density to give us a starting point for our roasting profile.
We roast each of these coffees independently, giving each the attention it requires to showcase it’s unique attributes.
We test the coffees solubility to ensure each coffee will dissolve it’s flavours into the brew at a similar rate.
THEN we mix them together and make adjustments to each roast profile to ensure the coffees are working harmoniously and balancing each other without loosing individuality.
All of our roasters and baristas test our new blends by tasting them both black and with milk before making adjustments to the blend percentages or coffees.
Finally our baristas set an optimum brew ratio to work within and we release the ‘new blend’ to the public.
Before we know it the seasons will have changed and the countries that produced the coffees we were using are out of season or out of coffee.
We go through the entire process from the beginning.
Blending on the face of it is simple - take great coffees and make the sum greater than the parts. However that basic procedure takes great effort, skill and a dedication.
Having said that to be a successful blender requires you to taste a whole heap of coffee. Which, let's be honest, is pretty much the best job in the world.