With all the love heaped on single-origin coffees of late, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole coffee world beyond single-O.
Back in the day, folks drank coffee made from a hodgepodge of beans, blends that were a commodity catchall. With the rise of the specialty coffee scene, blends became the coffee equivalent of fast food.
But at Coffeebar, where we love a bit of heresy with our morning cuppa, we believe blends are ready for their closeup.
The wine world offers a good comparison. Most people associate great wine with single origin grapes, but you can make delicious wine from a blend of grapes, too. The coffee roaster, like the winemaker, can control the flavor profile by adjusting the inputs and the process. The happy outcome is that blending produces a more consistent coffee and a more affordable product. (More heresy: we think yummy coffee doesn’t have to be a luxury.)
Blends that refuse to blend in
At the Coffeebar Roastery, we believe blends don’t have to be bland. We’re proud of our family of distinctive and delicious blended coffees.
Trailhead is a go-to crowd pleaser, a medium roast that’s composed of three different coffees. We start with natural-process coffee from Ethiopia, or Uganda, which creates the fruit notes. Colombian beans add bright acidity. And the Guatemalan coffee in the blend creates sweetness, producing a nutty, chocolaty quality and good body.
When Coffeebar founder Greg met our Director of Coffee, David, they had (ahem) a spirited disagreement about the relative merits of dark and medium roasts. At that time, dark roasts were not in vogue with coffeenistas. But Greg, a passionate Italiophile, wanted to make sure that we could serve the style of coffee he’d fallen in love with while living and working in Northern Italy.
Today, David is more than happy to walk on the Dark Side; suave Giuseppe is our dark roast. Because dark coffees are roasted longer, they display less fruit. There’s more caramelization and fewer volatile aromatics. You’ll get more chocolate, vanilla, and baking spice vs. fruit and floral notes. Dark roasts also tend to perform better with higher acidity beans to prevent the flatness that can come from a longer roast, and that acidity also gives them a depth of flavor that helps them hold up to milk. (Milky-coffee People, no need to apologize: Giuseppe understands.)
Prima Donna is our dark-roast decaf. Though decaf coffee is usually an afterthought for coffee roasters, ours receives plenty of love. As we like to say, it’s the coffee for those of us just too kick-ass for caffeine. It’s a well-balanced blend with notes of salted caramel, walnut, and cinnamon. (Is anyone else craving a cookie right now?)
If you’ve enjoyed an espresso drink at Coffeebar, you’ve met the gregarious and delicious Zephyr. This smooth blend has a creamy texture and flavors of milk chocolate, cherry, and vanilla. Zephyr offers the perfect opportunity for our friends from the La Suiza Coffee Community to shine. Because the espresso process uses pressure, it extracts different compounds from the coffee than other brewing methods. So beans that might not star in a single-O pour-over,like the La Suiza community blend, can still put in a bravura performance in your latte.
Coffeebar offers these blends, as well as bespoke blends, through our private label program. Some of our customers create their custom blends as holiday gifts for clients. Other customers retail them under their own brand. (We never “roast and tell”, but you may be enjoying Coffeebar Coffee in more places than Coffeebar!)
Finally, we’re excited to introduce our brand new blend, Davey’s Diner, named after none other than our Director of Coffee. It’s the diner coffee you always wanted to drink: smooth and rich, with notes of pipe tobacco, toasted walnut, and barley malt—like you remember, just better. Davey’s Diner was created primarily for our wholesale customers in the restaurant and hospitality world. One glance at the classic glass carafe on the label and you get a hint of its nostalgic flavor profile. It’s a bit unique in the Coffeebar band of blends.
The backbone of many blends on the market is the hardest working bean in the coffee biz: the aptly named Robusta. Robusta is higher in caffeine, and has fewer acids and sugars than Arabica. Unlike its more delicate and finicky cousin, Arabica, who insists on a cool upcountry climate, Robusta is happy to grow at lower elevations, where temperatures are warmer. (And getting more so.)
The coffee world is desperate for hardier plants that can withstand warmer climes and the leaf rust that plagues those areas. But research into disease-resistant coffee plants has not kept pace with the degradation of the coffee growing environment. Despite being one of the world’s largest agricultural commodities, coffee is decades behind other crops in the amount and sophistication of research being done.
The non-profit organization World Coffee Research is trying to change that; their mission is coffee genetic improvement. They provide farmers with access to improved varieties, from breeding through field trials, to nurseries and seed value chains. But the time required to develop multi-generational hybrids (plus the cost to farmers to purchase these new plants) is prohibitive. Coffee is consumed in rich countries, but produced in poor countries on small family farms; coffee plantations are often remote. Even disseminating information about best practices is a challenge: “connectivity” is not a thing in much of the coffee-producing world.
In the next ten years, many farmers could be forced to give up coffee growing and plant other crops on their land. With coffee plants taking about three years to produce their first fruit, replacing those farms with new plantations won’t be quick or easy. Even if they succeed, moving production to ever-higher elevations will make harvesting and transporting more difficult (read: expensive).
The coffee growing communities that supply Coffeebar, including Gorilla Summit in Uganda and La Suiza in Guatemala, have seen the writing on the climate change wall. To ensure their viability, they’ve started to plant more Robusta. And since our mission is not just to roast and serve great coffee but to help coffee communities thrive, we looked for opportunities to incorporate their Robusta into a new blend. Davey’s diner was just such a blend.
Davey’s Diner will help us help our farmers sell more of their coffee. And with that nice Robusta buzz, it just may help future generations of students cram for finals.
As Greg has always insisted, we’re not in this business to tell people how to take their coffee. (When you’re radically inclusive, it goes with the territory!) We all like something a bit different, and those preferences shift with our mood, the setting, and the time of day.
Yes, Coffeebar will continue to source and roast amazing single-O coffees. But sometimes there’s nothing nicer than having multiple-O’s.