The current trend shows that more and more coffees come from a specific region. With the focus on the use of a single variety, they are known as speciality or single-origin coffees, and many coffee aficionados will settle for nothing else. The most popular coffees, however, contain a combination of different varieties. We take a look at these mixes – and consider whether single-origin coffees really are the only choice.
Today, coffee is traded like good wine. No wonder – in fact, it boasts twice as many flavours as its alcoholic rival. While in the past the only question was whether a coffee contained 100 per cent Arabica beans, nowadays some very different factors come into play. Where it comes from, for example, how it was prepared and whether it is UTZ certified. But what are the real hallmarks of great coffee? Is the focus on single origins justified when it comes to the search for quality?
Coffee and its flavour profile – spoilt for single-origin choice
For the purpose of clarification, single-origin coffee is coffee that comes from one particular country, cooperative or even farm. In order to bear this title, the beans must not be mixed with those from any other regions or countries. The great thing about this is that each of these varieties has a very specific flavour profile with particular aromas, of which there are many – a single bean can develop as much as 800 different flavours. The scale ranges from citrus through berry and floral to nutty, chocolate and caramel notes, to name but a few. Anyone with an interest can study the world of coffee in much greater detail and, at some point, start calling themselves a coffee sommelier.
What does Ethiopia taste like? A single origin will show you
When it comes to teasing out the pure, unadulterated characteristics of a single origin, the beans tend to be roasted less intensively than those included in a blend, and will reflect the unmistakable flavour profile of their country of origin. Kenyan varieties have bright, juicy-sweet flavours, while Indian coffee is characterised by its nutty and spicy notes. Ethiopian coffee often has floral and fruity notes of stone fruit or berries, while South American coffee beans such as those from Brazil or Colombia are more nutty or even chocolatey.
We live in an age in which individuality is a high priority. No wonder, then, that single origins are currently so popular – and lots of people now drink no other kind of coffee, which we think is a pity.
Look past the trend, and let the blends speak for themselves
Blends, which typically consist of at least two different coffee varieties from different countries and/or regions, really do have a lot going for them. The different varieties are combined either before or after roasting, and the strength of a blend lies in the creative freedom that comes with combining various beans.
Creating a blend is like conducting an orchestra – the secret is in the composition. The challenge is to find coffee varieties that come together to form a balanced whole by virtue of their specific characteristics and flavour profiles. The result? Can be as diverse as its composer. But always balanced, complex and with a well-rounded flavour profile. And this is why the precise proportions are well-kept secrets in the industry, somewhat like the formula for Coca-Cola.
Coffee blends make every year a real balancing act
Coffee is a natural product that can vary in terms of both quality and quantity, depending on climatic and other environmental fluctuations. The aim with a blend is therefore also to offer the coffee consumer a clear and consistent flavour profile in which these fluctuations can go unnoticed. In order to achieve this, our Café Royal experts regularly hold coffee cuppings during which flavour profiles are analysed in great detail. A real balancing act! Consistent flavour is easier to achieve for blends than for single origins, as single origins vary slightly from year to year depending on the harvest, and adjustments to the flavour are difficult to make.
In conclusion, we believe that single origins and blends both have their strengths. It really is a matter of individual taste. Well cultivated, processed and roasted, each composition has its own appeal. Which is why we at Café Royal are committed to offering both.