In Part 1, we stole a glimpse at why blends matter and how they’ve come to dominate the market. But how do these beauties come into being? And how do master roasters surmount the numerous challenges that come hand-in-hand with manipulating a temperamental agricultural product into stable deliciousness?
Straight Talk From the Pros: Roasters Are Storytellers
To find out, we sat down with the pros and heard their advice for producing the perfect blend. So what did we learn?
You’ve got to travel to meet your partners in taste, because you can’t tell a story if you haven’t bought into the plot yourself.
Joshua Tarlo, Coffee Development Manager at Origin Coffee Roasters, asserts that a solid blend is “…a mixture of extensive travel and tasting, bringing producers from different regions and countries together to create unique and delicious coffees. It’s working with long-established coffee producing partners to deliver the much loved coffees we’ve always had, and finding new partners through our connections around the world who share our progressive mindset and love of paying attention to the small details that make the final cup something special”.
Origin Coffee Roasters的開發經理Joshua Tarlo，斷言配方豆為：「我們與長期合作的生產夥伴一起傳遞我們所愛的咖啡，結合了豐富的旅行經驗及味覺，匯集來自不同的產區、國家的生產者，以共創獨特且美味的咖啡。透過我們的連結，找出世界各地能分享我們新想法的新夥伴，這些喜愛咖啡的新夥伴注意到的小細節，將賦予最後呈現的咖啡獨特性。」
Travel reveals stories that need to be told and recounted consistently. Through the ups and downs of seasonality, there are common threads that remain honest and universal.
Each individual bean is approached with the blend’s story in mind. Epic tales are told by individual words, and when words go missing, the plot is easily lost.
Timothy Hill from Counter Culture Coffee explains, “We like to create blends that have more depth than just great coffee and an interesting name. For us, the idea of the blend has to be just as good as the flavours of the coffee itself. We have been putting tremendous effort into using our limited-release blends as a way for us to talk about big ideas and concepts in coffee. We select our coffees by cupping, then brewing combinations of what we think will work together. Sometimes we nail it on the first try, and other times it is back to the drawing board again and again.”
Counter Culture Coffee的Timothy Hill說：「我們喜歡調配具深度的配方豆，更甚於單純的好咖啡以及有趣的命名，對我們來說，配方豆的構成必須來自咖啡豆本身好的風味。我們一直在有限的配方豆中投注大量的努力，對此我們看的是咖啡的大方向，我們透過杯測選擇咖啡，並沖煮我們認為可行的配方。有時候我們會在第一次嘗試時就抓到我們要的，而其他時候則會一直嘗試。」
Stumptown Coffee Roasters’ digital marketing manager Allie Shanholt tells us that blends create consistent profiles while maintaining fresh coffees from the source: “When we think of blends and blending we think about emergent qualities; in a great blend, the sum of coffees may be greater than the single attributes of any single coffee. Blending is art, or at least should be an art; it is one of the many primary tools in the roaster’s craft. At Stumptown our standards for our ‘blenders’ are incredibly high. We’re a bit singular in that we spend an enormous amount of time and effort on our blended coffees, often sourcing from day lots and so on”.
Stumptown Coffee Roasters的數位行銷經理Allie Shanholt說，當維持新鮮咖啡豆的來源時，就能維持配方豆品質的一致性：「當我們構思配方時我們想的是個性鮮明、品質優良的好配方，混合調配的咖啡豆可能比任何單品咖啡更好。配方豆是一門藝術，或至少可說是藝術品，它是烘豆師重要技藝的代表之一。在Stumptown我們對調配配方者的標準非常高，我們常常日以繼夜的尋找，花了大量的時間及精力在調配一個好的配方豆。
Mother Nature’s Ups and Downs Are No Match for Modern Roasters
Creating blends isn’t without its difficulties. Being altogether an agricultural product, coffee is subject to climate conditions, weather patterns, growth cycles and harvesting times that differ with each region or location. Needless to say the variables present a mountain of challenges for roasters, and here’s how they deal with it:
A truly global product. The sun never sets on the coffee world.
Tarlo tell us, “Seasonality and freshness is fundamentally important to us at Origin Coffee, so we change the contents of our blend as the harvest periods come and go. To help deal with the unique flavour qualities of each origin and how they affect the final cup, we seek out partners producing coffees of similar flavour profiles around the world so we can provide people with the coffees they love, year round.”
Blends: the ying to the yang of the coffee landscape. When environmental swings occur, blends provide balance.
Hill says, “Seasonality can make it difficult to maintain a great blend profile, but at Counter Culture we work hard to create coffee specifically for our blends that have the flavours we are looking for. For instance we are working in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi on perfecting some natural processed coffees for our blends that often contain Ethiopian Natural coffees on the other harvest side of the year.”
Jacob Ibarra, a coffee buyer and person in charge of the coffee program at Five Senses Coffee, admits that a lot of thought goes into the repeatability and reliability of the blend: “When creating this brief we mull over whether or not we can accomplish this year round. We make a conscious choice to use opposing or complementary origin harvests. Also, in our experience, we have concluded that certain coffees age better than others so our usage of a given coffee will not always look the same for each blend.”
Five Senses Coffee 的咖啡研究專案的採購人員Jacob Ibarra，承認花了很多心思考量配方豆的可重複性及可靠性：「當調配出配方，我們會考量是否能常年供應，我們有意的使用相反或互補性質的咖啡。此外，我們結論出某些年份的咖啡更好，所以我們並不總是用相同方式來調配配方豆。」
“In truth, it is a tricky puzzle to put together and every year it looks just a bit different, but we want our customers to experience a profile that is reliable yet embraces seasonality.”
Ross Quail, wholesale general manager for St Ali, Sensory Lab, andClement Coffee Roasters, emphasises the importance of the skill of the person in charge of purchasing green beans: “Get a first class green bean buyer who can manage crop cycles and plan adequately. If your business wants to make consistently great coffee, it needs a dedicated individual to focus on this area.”
Ross Quail，身兼ST Ali、Sensory Lab及Clement Coffee Roasters的批發商，強調購買生豆時的技巧是非常重要的，「在可以充分掌握生豆的作物週期，就可以拿到高品質的咖啡豆，假如一個公司要做好咖啡，在這方面就必須要有一個專業、而能持續投注在採購的人員。」
Meet the Blends
Here’s a quick glimpse of some of the blends on the scene today. Get to know them, where they come from, and their story.
Crompton Road is a balanced blend with rich flavours of marzipan and dark chocolate, rounded out with a heavy buttery body and creamy aftertaste.
Harvest is an elegant, rounded coffee with notes of cherry, dark chocolate and blood orange, with a sweet candied aftertaste.
Dark Horse has a complex character and round juicy body with a dark chocolate, blackcurrant and delicate herbal flavour and velvety aftertaste.
Tightrope is sweet and fruity on the nose with a juicy mouthfeel and flavours of blueberry, biscuit and vanilla.
Counter Culture Coffee (Limited Release Blends):
Underdog is a blend dedicated to origins often ignored by the best of the best in the specialty coffee market: Papua New Guinea, Timor, and Burundi.
Line Drawing is dedicated to new approaches for us in sustainability efforts.
Sweet Valley High is a current limited-release blend dedicated to profile differences in the small area of Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia caused by the variety of the coffee trees and the terroir.
Sweet Vally High是限量配方豆，由衣索比亞耶加雪菲的微型產地中，不同樹種及具特殊風土條件的產區所出。
Resolute is a no-nonsense classic idea of coffee: regardless of its contents, it aims for a dark chocolate and nutty taste with a big body. It was created to be the bedrock of that classic morning latte or that shot of espresso. A coffee that tastes like coffee. It includes coffee from Erwin Mierisch of Fincas Mierisch, Nicaragua.
Resolute 是一支經典的咖啡，強調其中黑巧克力及堅果風味所帶來的醇厚度，創造它的用意是用在早上那杯拿鐵或是那杯義式濃縮上。喝起來像咖啡的咖啡，來自尼加拉瓜Mierisch莊園的Erwin Mierisch。
Pathfinder is the idea of a coffee being sweet yet tough, and recognition that coffee can be delicious syrupy berries, light chocolate and fruity. It’s about capturing the incredible qualities hidden in the best coffee cherries and roasting them to be the high notes in a cappuccino or the syrupy-like sweetness in an espresso. It includes coffee from the Pacas family farms in El Salvador.
There are so many stories being told from around the world, tales that are woven together by a host of authors; crack open a freshly-roasted bag of specialty coffee to delve into the next delicious tale that awaits.
翻譯by Come True Coffee咖啡苗