The Fallacy of Bespoke Blends

So yesterday I had a mini-rant about blends. I’ll likely come back to that to cover it in in more detail at a later date.

I will admit though blends can occasionally be good if they are made with great care and effort. One thing I will never understand is why some shops still opt for a bespoke blend.

Making  a blend well is extremely difficult, you have to find the coffees that balance and compliment one another well enough to make something greater than the sum of it’s parts. Preferably with the goal of also having equal solubility and optimum extraction points i.e. at a given recipe both coffees are tasting their best. All whilst making sure the beans used are good value, since blends are typically the cheapest offering from a roastery. This is hard. That’s why most roasteries tend to only offer one blend, they take so much work that it’s only worth having one to focus on.

So given this, why do roasteries even have the option of making a bespoke blend for a small-scale client, and why would anyone choose it?

By asking for a bespoke blend you’re essentially saying

“You know that blend that you’ve spent so many hours painstakingly sourcing, profiling and perfecting? We’d like you to go through all that again but for something a little bit different… That only we’re allowed to buy… Plus we’ll only buy a small amount each week and expect to have an input.”

I think I would be offended if I were a roaster being asked that. It’s the equivalent of someone asking for an espresso with their own recipe rather than the one I chose whilst dialling-in.

What do people hope to achieve by having a bespoke blend? It’s obviously not going to be as good as the roaster’s main blend, otherwise they’d be using it already. You also have the issue of it being so much effort for the level of reward that the roaster has little incentive to continually maintain or seek to improve the quality, unlike with their main blend.

As I said before the main issue I have with blends is that the coffee then becomes about the roastery rather than the farmer. Bespoke blends are even worse, they become about just the shop, at-least talking about a roastery can be interesting. Rather than expanding a customers’ perspective to the incredible world of speciality coffee you’re instead being completely self-focused. It’s really boring.

You know who else has their own bespoke blends? All the chains. You know who doesn’t? All the best coffee shops. Just stop it with bespoke blends. It’s insulting to the farmers, the roasters and your customers.

After all you’re basically choosing having your own name on a bag rather than offering the best coffee that is available to you.

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