First of all, what is a blend?
The basic idea of blending coffees is to create a flavour profile that is greater than the sum of its parts, so to speak. It’s a similar practice to what our counterparts do in the wine industry.
When Coffee Supreme blends coffee, we take several single origins that have specific characters and join them in such a way that, together, they give a fuller, more rounded profile that doesn’t occur naturally in any one origin. What one coffee might lack, you provide with another and so on.
Another major reason for blending is that it allows you to create and maintain a consistent flavour profile or signature throughout the year with what can be unpredictable ingredients. The chief reasons for a coffee’s variability are found when we look at the diversity of where coffee is grown around the world.
From country to country, it will be grown at different altitudes, in different climates, in different soils, be harvested at different times of the year, be processed differently, and will be of differing species or varietals. Even though the coffee we buy is in a reasonably stable condition once processed and shipped to us, like any organic product it will change in nature as it ages.
To maintain a consistent flavour profile throughout the year, or to keep the profile within a narrow window of acceptability, we may have to tweak the blend ratios and roast profiles. Occasionally, we even substitute some ingredients for others at certain times. It sounds a little like backwards logic but we have to keep moving in order to stay in the same place. This is the kind of stuff that keeps us busy, and somewhat over-caffeinated, throughout the year.
Each of our espresso blends that you’ll find in cafes across the country has a distinct personality and fulfills a certain role on our coffee menu. With our 4 blends we try to provide something that will suit most people, either through flavour profile or roast degree, or both. We think of our espresso blend offer as something of a spectrum, with each blend sitting at a different point, offering a little something special that its neighbours don’t, but all fitting within the general scope of what we as a roasting company are trying to express about coffee.
Two of our blends are what you might call single origin blends. Seemingly oxymoronic, they are simply blends of different coffees but from the same country of origin, and are put together by us as a way of offering a year-round, consistent statement on what we think about that country’s coffee. In this way, even with our single origin blends (Brazil and The Origin) our blends are more about “us” than “coffee”, or the farmer who grew it.
When it comes to the “proper” single origins that we roast though, the emphasis is reversed. These will be coffees we’ve purchased specifically for our retail menus and will be chosen because, through their particular quality, they offer an interesting perspective on region, varietal, processing method, (terroir if you like), and most importantly, the farmer’s point of view. We keep these coffees unblended and we try to treat them in such a way that our role in their journey from tree to cup is imperceptible. With these coffees we only want to have the farmer’s fingerprints on them, not ours.
By in large we’ll roast single origins in such a way that we’ve realised, as best we can, the inherent qualitites of the coffee, and only that. For the most part, even though we do offer light espresso roasts of some singles, these coffees are taken to a roast degree where we’ve fully developed the innate characters of the coffee but without adding any “roastiness” or flavours that are directly attributable to the process rather than the particular beans.
As espresso brewing requires a particular (deeper) approach be taken to the roasting process, it is often the case that the best qualities of the best coffees can be masked if treated in such a way. Although we’re not anti-espresso in any way, it will be the case, by in large, that our very best single origin lots will be kept too light for pressurised brewing (espresso and stovetop) but great for the likes of filter and plunger preparation, etc.
The growth of the specialty sector in coffee, the fact that every year the quality of the very best being produced is lifting, is the principle reason why you’re seeing these older, non-pressurised brewing methods (Chemex, cone filters etc) coming back to the fore. It’s not that some thin, bearded men with overly complicated personailities and owl / fox / axe / bicycle tattoos have declared these things cool again. It’s that espresso is, more often that not, not the best tool for showcasing the best coffees.
We blend coffees to maintain a year-round consistent flavour profile for our espresso offerings. Coffees will slightly change in nature as they age so to keep our wholesale customers using consistent products we have to regularly tweak both how we construct our blends and how we roast them to keep them within a narrow window of acceptability. Our blend menu is designed to feature something for everyone and is perhaps more of an expression of how we feel about certain coffees and origins rather than a platform for showcasing a particular country, varietal, or farmer.
Our retail menu is dominated by single origin coffees, rather than blends. With our retail menu we try to offer our customers the chance to learn something about coffee and the farmer who produced it, rather than the roasting company that bought it and turned it brown. Our single origins are unblended coffees that have been chosen specifically for their ability to relate to the drinker something about the country, the varietal, the processing method, and the farmer who grew it. More often than not we keep the roast degree lighter (unsuitable for espresso) so as to not mask the singular characters that make the coffee special.
Coffees that make our LTD range will either be produced in very small amounts, i.e. micro, if not nano, lots, (1-3 bag lots that have been especially prepared for us), or will be exclusive to us in our marketplace. Our LTD range will feature the coffees we’ve found that most elegantly express characteristics of terroir and more. They’ll fulfil other criteria internally, cupping scores etc., but the primary attribute they’ll sport is an inspiring insight into the potential this drink has. Due to the way in which we’re sourcing and assessing these coffees they wont be a year-round offer, so when they’re available don’t be shy.
To see our current coffee menu in Australia, click here.
To see our coffee menu for New Zealand and the rest of the world, click here.