Blends

Exploring “Classic” Espresso Blends: Taiwan Roasters

Exploring “Classic” Espresso Blends: Taiwan Roasters

When we put out our call for classic espresso blends for our June 2019 report, we were not prepared for the overwhelming response: We received 54 samples from roasters based in North America and 46 from roasters based in Asia, all in Taiwan. The magnitude of the response was, perhaps, due to our openness. We […]

Exploring “Classic” Espresso Blends: North American Roasters

Exploring “Classic” Espresso Blends: North American Roasters

Once a year, we ask roasters to submit coffees roasted for espresso for a special tasting with an outside lab partner, always focused around a specific theme. In recent years, we’ve covered natural-process and single-origin espresso from the Americas; in 2015, we reported on “open-source” espresso blends, documenting the growing trend of openly revealing blend […]

Blending Coffees: Craft, Intuition and Thematic Riffs

Blending Coffees: Craft, Intuition and Thematic Riffs

Blending any two or more things together is a curious and complex act. In winemaking, grapes are often blended to combine extremes in character while simultaneously softening each. Foods may be blended for contrast: Lemon and butter combined, for example, make a classic sauce for pasta or fish that is both richly creamy and tart, […]

By February 8, 2018 |Reviews Tasting Report
Blends 2015: Quietly Agreeable with Some Fireworks

Blends 2015: Quietly Agreeable with Some Fireworks

Blends (particularly those designed for regular brewed coffee) have been out of fashion at the top end of in American specialty coffee for some time now – say for the last ten to fifteen years. The excitement has been focused on “single-origin” coffees, meaning coffees from a single growing region (the broadest definition), or (a […]

Open Source Espresso Blends

Open Source Espresso Blends

With this espresso tasting we focus on what appears to be a new trend in espresso blending – the open disclosure to customer and competitor of the identity of the specific green coffees that compose a blend, as opposed to the deliberate secrecy around blending that has prevailed in the coffee industry for decades. The […]

Holiday Gift Coffees: Blends and Beyond

Holiday Gift Coffees: Blends and Beyond

This holiday season may mark the definitive return of the blend to the high-end specialty coffee scene after years of almost exclusive dedication to ever-more-refined single-origin offerings. The excitement and ingenuity of many of the holiday-themed blends we sampled this past month certainly suggest such a revival. The holiday blend, a long-standing staple of the […]

By December 4, 2014 |Reviews Tasting Report
State of the Blend 2014

State of the Blend 2014

To say that blends are out of style (at least for drip and French press brewing) in the contemporary high-end world of specialty coffee would be an understatement. Today one seldom sees blends intended for drip brewing featured by cafes and roasting companies with serious upscale coffee aspirations. And any drip blend that does show […]

By February 1, 2014 |Reviews Tasting Report
Holiday Blends and Gift Coffees

Holiday Blends and Gift Coffees

This month’s reviews fall neatly into two categories: first, five exceptional holiday blends; second, an assortment of fine single-origin coffees offered only for the holidays that range from versions of familiar names to three holiday splurge coffees likely to satisfy money-is-no-object gift-giving and holiday impulsiveness. Starting with the holiday blends, the most striking finding of […]

By December 9, 2013 |Reviews Tasting Report
Tall-Drink Espressos: Best Blends for Big Milk

Tall-Drink Espressos: Best Blends for Big Milk

One old-time coffee generalization certainly got shot down by this month’s reviews: the notion that the way to get pronounced espresso flavor in large (i.e. caffè latte-sized) volumes of hot milk is to roast the hell out of the coffees. The idea used to be that the burned pungency of darker roasted coffees would cut […]

By September 2, 2010 |Reviews Tasting Report
Pity the Poor Decaf Drinker: Signature Decaf Blends

Pity the Poor Decaf Drinker: Signature Decaf Blends

I am a positive thinker when it comes to coffee, but this month’s sampling of fifty decaffeinated blends from thirty of North America’s finest specialty roasters tested my optimism. Almost every month our reviews reveal impressive new coffee possibilities powered in part by a fresh generation of specialty coffee roasters and coffee producers. Typically our […]

Fourteen Covers of a Classic Tune: Mocha Java Blends

Fourteen Covers of a Classic Tune: Mocha Java Blends

Around 1740 Europeans had a rather limited menu of coffees to choose from: Mocha, the world’s original commercial coffee from what is now Yemen, and Java, a recent introduction by the Dutch from their colony in the Pacific. Inevitably, these two coffees came together to form the world’s first blend. In the years following, other, […]

American Espresso Blends: Boutique and Bigger

American Espresso Blends: Boutique and Bigger

Specialty espresso is currently in the throes of a creative explosion. I think of it as “post-Italian” espresso, a dynamic community of baristas, blender/roasters and motivated aficionados remaking espresso as a global connoisseur’s beverage with passionately contested barista competitions, non-traditional brewing innovations, and freshly conceived blend designs. The goal of this month’s tasting reviews was […]

House Blends: Comfort Coffee and Beyond

House Blends: Comfort Coffee and Beyond

House blend is a slippery term in coffee. It can suggest the straightforward and reliable, as in “house wine,” and it can mean something unusual but local, not to be had elsewhere, as in “only at our house.” Plus over the last decade it has taken on still another meaning. You find this last definition […]

By February 9, 2009 |Reviews Tasting Report
Holiday Blends and Other Gift Coffees

Holiday Blends and Other Gift Coffees

Creating special blends and offerings for the winter holidays is a long-standing coffee tradition, and, well, a cool retail opportunity for roasters. It’s a natural: nights are long, mornings are dark, days are cold, and coffee is a good thing. Coffee roasters tend to meet the winter holiday challenge in several ways. One is crafting […]

By November 5, 2006 |Reviews Tasting Report
Breakfast Blends 2006: An American Tradition Goes Cosmopolitan

Breakfast Blends 2006: An American Tradition Goes Cosmopolitan

What is a “breakfast blend”? The word and the idea come from a seemingly long-gone era in America when pancakes, diners and endless refills were the norm rather than quaintly retro exceptions. In 2006, what can American specialty coffee consumers expect from the term – and from the coffees? If the twenty-six nominal breakfast blends […]

Progressive Crema: Organic and Fair-Trade Espresso Blends

Progressive Crema: Organic and Fair-Trade Espresso Blends

Here are three things you need to understand to fully appreciate the achievement embodied in the exceptional espresso blends reviewed this month: First, the espresso brewing system produces its best results from coffees that are balanced but complex. Typically, it takes a minimum of three different coffees, often as many as five, to produce an […]

Premium Coffee Blends

Premium Coffee Blends

The upside of blending coffees is the possibility of creating a coffee with more range and complexity than can be displayed by a coffee from a single crop or origin. The downside is the potential loss of idiosyncrasy or distinctiveness, the danger of creating a boring muddle rather than a complex symphony. Although only one […]

Classic Espresso Blends

Classic Espresso Blends

In an American context, a classic espresso blend is one that achieves the heavy body and natural sweetness required of espresso brewing by skillful combining of naturally sweet, full-bodied coffees, rather than by trying to subdue acidy coffees through aggressive dark roasting. In these terms, all nine of the blends in this month’s espresso tasting […]

Mocha-Java Blends

Mocha-Java Blends

Buying Mocha-Java blends is like listening to jazz ensembles cover Autumn Leaves; the melody may be the same but the interpretations sure aren’t. Kevin Knox of Allegro Coffee tells a story from the early, pre-corporate days at Starbucks, when the company named its Mocha-Java blend “Revolutionary” Mocha-Java. Revolutionary because people were actually told what was […]

Espresso Blends

Espresso Blends

You walk into a cafe. Ominously empty. Hopper’s Nighthawks, except it’s eleven o’clock in the morning. Deep down you know no one has ordered coffee for the last two hours. With noirish resolution you consider the options: urn coffee that has stewed so long flavor is a remote memory, or an espresso, which at least […]