By Mark Beattie, co-founder  Coffee Roasters Asia

The specialty coffee market is forever evolving and one of the buzz words at the moment is Single Origin. A lot of roasters and coffee
outlets have or are looking to introduce single origins into the coffee
repertoire but are struggling as to where it fits in the scheme of
things verse the tried and tested concept of blended coffee.

There may be a few different interpretations going around of what Single Origin exactly is but I like to refer to is as coffee that comes
from a single known geographical origin and more specifically a single
farm. You can further break it down to Single Origin Micro Lot coffees which derive from a single field on a farm.

Blended coffee on the other hand is a combination of different single origin coffees mixed together. Generally this is done to produce a beHer beverage than if the coffees were standalone but this is not always the sole intention and blending can be undertaken for a number of other reasons.

Let’s first look at the key reasons why a coffee roaster would blend coffee instead of just using Single Origins:

• To produce a better and more well rounded coffee by introducing other coffee origins to bolster weaker areas of the base coffee.

• To improve the profitability of the coffee offer. This shouldn’t always be seen as a negative by the consumer. Some cheaper coffees can be ordinary on their own but great when combined with other coffees that enhance that coffees weaker notes. Sure there are less noble reasons to improve profitability but let’s not focus on those. The Australian coffee market is highly milk based so in many instances the highly prised specialty coffee will not suit your flat white or cappuccino drinker. You can produce some lower cost blends that will suit your target market better than higher costs ones. This makes good business sense and is one of the main advantages to blending coffee.

• To spread the risk of quality and supply issues. By using multiple coffee origins in a blend there is less risk ongoing than if you were solely relying on the one origin for your coffee offer. Particularly coffee is seasonal and therefore subject to environmental changes, pest and disease. There are other factors that can affect supply, for example, political and economical.

• To improve the consistency of the coffee offer. The coffee you buy will vary throughout the season which presents the roaster with ongoing
QA consistency issues. A blend allows the roasters to manipulate the recipe easier to ensure a more consistently good product. Skilled roasters are varying the origin percentages and profiles ongoing based mainly on sample cupping.

• As a clever marketing tool. The branding and packaging of the blend in a lot of instances is carefully targeted towards emotional cues of the consumer. In a lot of instances it is the ingeniously marketed blend that sells and not necessarily the best coffee. An example of this is the number of locally roasted coffees that have Italian names given to the blend to take advantage of the general consumers’ perception of Italian coffee. The blend can also be targeted towards a cup profile type such as Java and Mocha for example.

The single origin coffee offer is mainly driven by the demand of consumers for high quality coffees to be enjoyed in their purest form. It strips back a lot of the marketing innuendo of blends and mainly relies on the origin story and quality of the coffee to appease consumers. The majority of the blended coffees in the market are targeted towards the mainstream milk coffee consumer so roasters tend to focus on the caramelised and roast notes in cup character. These are amplified more towards the darker roast degree or commonly second crack in the roast process and beyond. The combination of these flavour notes, are more favourable to the majority of milk based coffee consumers in the market. The bright citric or fruit notes of a lighter roasted coffee don’t tend to blend well with milk. A lot of the high quality specialty coffees are mainly wet processed to produce a nice clean and crisp coffee but can lack the body required to make a pleasant milk based espresso. Most consumers won’t find citric or
fruit notes coming through strongly in their flat white very pleasant. If you ask a consumer to describe their ideal flavour and texture notes
for a milk based beverage you will almost always get chocolate, caramel, smooth or creamy.

Mark Beattiee is one of the leading coffee roaster trainers in Australia, working in the coffee industry for over 14 years. Mark’s
passion for coffee and coffee equipment ensures his customers’ coffee
industry dreams are realised.