Coffee blends, single origins Saint Patrick and the shamrock
With St Patrick’s Day upon us, it’s interesting to point out how the story of Saint Patrick and the shamrock can be related to coffee beans, single origins and coffee blending.
In case you aren’t aware of how the shamrock came to be one of the most recognised symbols of Ireland, it goes back to the fifth century when Saint Patrick was preaching to the pagan tribes of Ireland. He used the shamrock to explain the mysteries of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three gods in one. Apparently the ancient Irish were having trouble getting to grips with the concept of three deities in one person so Saint Patrick used the shamrock to illustrate his point. The shamrock has three leaves, one each representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, yet at the same time it has only one stem.
Coffee Blends Vs Single Origins
The same applies to coffee and specifically to coffee blends. Three (or more) different beans can combine to make one exquisite coffee. I nearly always favour blends over single origin coffees. Over more than 30 years, I have tasted and tested nearly all the big name single origins from every coffee producing country on Earth. Some of these are very special coffees indeed and some have characteristics that can’t be found in any other origin. The thing is, every one of these single origin coffees can be improved by judicious blending. I have never tasted a single origin coffee that couldn’t be improved by, for example lengthening or softening the finish, adding more bite to the aroma or adding an after-layer of complexity under the primary taste notes.
Often enough, the single origins that with amazing primary tastes are lacking something in texture or in mouth feel. A few grams of a carefully selected complementary bean could add depth and finish to these already extraordinary coffees and add to the sensation without taking anything away from what makes the origin unique. In the coffee world, however, most people are reluctant to do this because some single origin coffees can attract a price premium in their unadulterated form and roasters are reluctant to interfere with this premium.
Blending coffee is an art in itself
All the coffees we supply are blends. We think blends perform much better at every level of the market. A good roaster will have an instinctive feel for how an individual origin will interact with other varieties and how the flavours, aromas and textures will complement each other. Experience and long practice improves and sharpens this intuition, and repeated trials can bring it to a fine art. There is enormous satisfaction in creating a coffee blend that transcends the sum of its constituents. It is is very possible to make a 9 out of 10 coffee by blending three different beans, each of which is a 6 or a 7 in its own right. The magic is in the blending and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I created a brief video on blending and roasting last year. You can see it here.
Like Saint Patrick and the shamrock, many of our coffees have three main blends that deliver the primary flavours and aromas. These will usually be rounded out with small quantities of other beans to add subtlety and detail but it is the three main blends that carries most of the flavour and the body. Like Saint Patrick, we think of these as one coffee, even though they have multiple parts.
If you’re a customer, or if you are interested in buying our coffee for your business, we’d be happy to demonstrate the process to you. Like Saint Patrick and the Ancient Irish, we think you’ll be converted. 🙂