Blends? Blands more like…

I’m not a fan of blends.

In general they lie somewhere on the spectrum between “fine but boring” to “sucking balls”. I don’t ever want the coffee I brew and serve to be on this spectrum.

There are many reasons blends tend to be boring/suck. They use cheaper coffee, are meant as an easy-going crowd-pleaser and/or are often constructed with coffees of different solubility – meaning they don’t extract as evenly as single origins.

These are not the big reasons though. What I dislike most is that once you use a blend the story of the coffee is no longer about the farmer or the origin, it’s about the roaster.

Using a single origin coffee, if a customer is interested I can give them a quick sound-bite of info. I.e. “This is a Red Honey processed Catuai from Tarrazu, Costa Rica grown by Herman Cortez. It tastes of apple, caramel and hazlenut. It’s also really sweet since the farm is high up at 2000masl.”

On the other hand if someone asks about a blend it’s more likely to be “This is from Artisan Craft-Hipsters roastery, they’re based in some abandoned pillow factory nearby . Its a blend of Colombian, Brazilian and Sumatran beans. It tastes of chocolate and is really smooth.” 

For me speciality coffee is all about showcasing the incredible work of the farmer and the flavours that are inherent in high quality coffee. We can successfully differentiate ourselves from the chains by showing our passion, knowledge and giving customers an outstanding drink. I feel blends make it harder to do this.

Having said all that blends do have some advantages. They allow the shop to have a relatively stable flavour profile for their coffee all year round which many guests enjoy, although I personally much prefer variety. Blends are also good value, meaning the shop can actually make some money and compete on price.

I know many people in the industry still believe a blend is what you should use for your “house” coffee, the argument for having a safe and easy-going coffee can be convincing. However, I doubt you’ll ever become known for your coffee by using only a blend so it’s best to have the rest of your offering on good form or at-least offer some well dialled-in guest espressos.

Fair play if you still opt for a blend, they’re definitely not for me but I can understand why some shops use them. One thing I cannot understand though is why some cafes opt for having their own “unique blend.”

But that’s tomorrow’s topic…



One thought on “Blends? Blands more like…

  1. Jen says:

    This is a bit of a strawman argument, don’t you think James? It is overgeneralizing to say that at specialty shops, blend beans are generally lower quality (unless your single origin offerings are 90+), and one can certainly coordinate solubility and showcase the unique flavours of origins in a blend. Blending does not work for all beans, and blending may not necessary highlight a particular flavour that you value in a bean, so it is important to cup and experiment. But blending allows for flavour and texture combinations to fit together and complement each other, and a well-built, well roasted blend showcases the best of its components and brings them together harmoniously, and hopefully finds a synergy that only happens when you blend and create something that was not in any of the component parts.

    I agree with your point about the farmers themselves getting lost when we blend, but that is not inherent in the blending process. Roasters can do a better job of explaining the commonalities and/or notable differences between the beans (processing, altitude, variety etc.) and give the barista enough information to tell a compelling story for customers who are engaged by that style of communication.

    It sounds like blends aren’t in line with your brand, and that may be the case for others as well. But it doesn’t follow that blends are at odds with the specialty coffee ethos.


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