Which coffee is better: a single origin coffee or a blend? There is no straightforward answer to this simple and fairly common question.
What’s a blend and what’s single origin? Basic terms 101
We use a lot of terms when describing coffee, but not all are known and clear to all. However, one must know them to be able to pick the “right” coffee.
Single origin coffee is a selection of coffee beans coming from one specific farm or plantation, having been processed using the same method.
It is very important to identify the exact cultivar, the altitude of the plantations or the method used to process the beans. With specialty, single origin coffee it is even possible to identify the very farmer or producer of each coffee batch. Single origin coffee is often sold seasonally in limited quantities and is not available throughout the whole year. It’s usually the lighter roast that helps single origin coffees to unravel their specific aromas and flavor nuances.
Blends on the contrary are mixtures of coffee beans of different species or cultivars. They are unique combinations of coffee beans that may come from different parts of the world and might have even been processed using different methods.
Blends can represent a combination of coffees from different countries, like our blends Piano, Intensivo or Harmonelle, but they can also be regional blends, like our low-caf blend Siesta which has been blended from two different Columbian coffees. There can also be blends consisting of different Arabicas, or even Arabicas mixed with Robustas in various ratios, like our Gurmano or Duetto blends. Blends are usually roasted to a darker degree to highlight their tobacco and chocolate tones, as well as their caramel-like sweetness.
When and how was the first blend created?
In the beginning, coffee was a classic trade commodity of a given country or region and thus was sold automatically as single origin. It was only later, as coffee has started to gain on its popularity and growing coffee was becoming more common, when the historically first coffee blend was created, the Mocha-Java.
It was a combination of fresh Yemeni coffee coming from the harbor of Al-Mokha (or Mocha) and heavy, chocolatey Jawan coffee. The reason behind blending specifically these two coffees is simple: those were the only commercially traded coffees at the time.
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The oldest European coffee houses have started to rely on coffee blends, as they have won the hearts of their customers with their stable and delicious taste. It was only later, at the end of the 19th century, with the birth of the espresso – being able to produce a very tasty drink from even lower grade coffee, when blends have become even more established in the world of coffee.
The gradual progress in the coffee industry: the improvement of roasting & better methods of preparing coffee has brought a need for higher grade single origin coffees, as well as higher demands on their flavors; so new high-quality blends have started to emerge with a full & complex body and specific chocolatey, nutty or liquory tones.
Today, the creation of blends in craft coffee roasteries is a highly creative process. While some are the product of random experiments, other are created knowingly using either a combination of coffees that complement each other or are the exact opposites to create a contrast. Be it either of the methods the recipe is always a highly guarded trade secret.
The creation of our blends
Our decision to create blends was rather logical in the beginning – we wanted to provide a sense of comfort and pleasure for our customers, which – at that time – was only provided by the “traditional” coffees with typically distinct body of cocoa tones and without any acidity at all. So, we have focused on the so-called Italian type coffees and roasts.
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Despite this seemingly monotone direction we have thrived to create blends that would taste different in the cup. That is why we have approached each blend in a different way. Intensivo was meant to have a robust, bitter body without any acidity, but it was also supposed to be a 100% Arabica – that is why we’ve created the recipe strategically by tuning and merging of different flavors.
Harmonelle, on the other hand is a result of pure experimentation: we were trying to blend the base with various coffees – even with coffees that are not recommended for blending. We were, however, successful with our experiment as the result is a harmonic and balanced espresso coffee with the captivating flavor of chocolate and fresh flowery tones.
Later, we have started to introduce single origin coffees to our offering, but even those were more “traditional”, like coffees from Brazil or Columbia. With the gradual evolution of the local coffee market and the tastebuds of our customers new, much wilder and fruitier coffees were appearing in our offering, e.g., our limited edition “Limitka” where we started to introduce a completely different spectrum of flavors to our Slovak, Czech and Hungarian customers.
You can find almost everything in our offering nowadays: traditional or creative coffee blends, but also classical single origin coffees or wild ones with bold acidity.
Which coffee is better: single origin or blend?
There’s no right answer to this question, as there is no overall best coffee. Every coffee is different but that doesn’t mean that one is tastier than the other. Let’s demonstrate this using a parallel between theatre and movies.
There’s a dominant opinion in the world of specialty coffee, and that is that single origin coffees should be roasted lightly to enable all natural flavor characteristics to demonstrate themselves including their heavy acidity, which could be a serious turn-down for some coffee afficionados. In other words, single origin coffees – just like theatre – should simply provide a unique experience without any unneeded “glamor”.
Blends, on the other hand, may remind us of movies. Their recipe is usually built up slowly, the flavor of each blend is refined to the smallest details, so that each cup could provide the same quality experience. Opposed to single origin coffees, which can be a little bit different in every cup, blends offer a stable and perfectly balanced flavor.
So, if you’re trying to resolve the dilemma if you should drink single origin coffees or blends, the answer is simple: it depends solely on your preferences. Some customers are looking for excitement and surprises, others seek routine and stable flavor. While single origin coffees offer a sensible connection with a specific region or people, blends will get you a perfectly balanced and consistent harmony of flavors, which single origin coffees are unable to mimic.
That’s why we believe that every coffee – be it single origin or blend – have their own place and time…
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