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            An Ode to Coffee Blends      
        A post-roast coffee blend.      
          January 11, 2010    
For those of us in the specialty coffee roasting business, our offerings represent a balance between single-origin coffees and the proprietary blends we create. A single origin is an unblended coffee from one specific growing region, e.g., Costa Rica or Sumatra. Consumers gravitate to these coffees to experience their varietal character— known as terroir—loosely translated as a "taste of place" in the cup. Perceptive palates appreciate these distinctive qualities, ranging from the clean citrus flavor of a washed Costa Rican to the brooding chocolate notes of a semi-washed Sumatran. Owing to the unique characteristics of world-class arabica coffees, one can travel the world in a cup.

While single-origins represent the starlets of a roaster's menu board, the blends created by each roaster are the comfort food. Blends may not take a coffee lover on a trip to a particular destination, but they do afford consumers an opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of staying put with flavors that are both comforting and familiar. A blended coffee is crafted to provide a reliably consistent brew, and loyal customers expect a favorite blend to remain true to itself from one cup to the next.

A coffee blend is a mixture of two or more single-origin coffees. Generally, the coffees are either blended and taken to the same roast level or roasted separately to different roast levels and then blended. Blends can also be created by mixing sub-blends together, often with an added single-origin or two to achieve a specific flavor, body, or aroma.

For a coffee roaster, the challenge is to ensure that as the varietal nuances of a coffee intended for a blend vary slightly from one harvest to the next, the coffee must still contribute to a blend's overall taste profile in a way that keeps it accessible to the customer. And that is the fundamental promise a roaster must deliver on. The best of these blends result in a coffee that exceeds its parts, producing a unified cup with flavors unattainable from any single origin.

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