Coffee Language : Mysterious House Blends

At this point we reach the ultimate test: names for house blends, the beloved children of the proprietor or roaster, baptized with names of his or her personal fantasy. A specialty roaster may have one such child or a dozen. Some of these offspring may have been a tradition in a coffee-roasting family for two or three generations; others may have been born yesterday. A few may be unique, but most are standard blends well known in the coffee business, with slightly different proportions and fanciful names. Occasionally the name gives us a clue to content, but most often we are faced with the romance of the proprietor, whose preferences may run from mountaineering (Tip of the Andes Blend) to the elegantly British (Mayfair), to the darkly Latin (Orsi).

I harbor mixed feelings about vaguely named blends. Romance and imagination are marvelous qualities and should be encouraged, but I also think the consumer deserves to be informed in a direct and unpatronizing way. Fortunately, responsible specialty-coffee roasters increasingly do offer descriptions of their blends. Although these one-liners are sometimes colored by wine label romance, they do at least name the constituent coffees, if not their proportions and precise origin.