We sent a team out to Seattle over the weekend and spent Friday in scenic Sumner, Washington, working to create something special for a new espresso blend. Helping us through the process was Phil Beattie, head of The Roasters Guild and the Green Coffee Buyer for Dillanos.
Creating a blend goes like this: first, you taste some individual single-origin coffees to get a good idea of what each one brings to the table. A rich, chocolatey Brazilian, for example, might provide a good base to build from if a rich, chocolatey finish is something you like in an espresso (it is definitely something we like in an espresso). After tasting the coffees individually, you figure out some possible configurations for a blend (for example, a two bean blend, with 60% coffee A and 40% coffee B, or a three bean blend with equal thirds of coffees A, B, and C). You grab your scales, weight out the proportions, and start tasting the blends. If you taste something that you like but needs some part of the taste profile dialed up or down, you adjust the ratio, and taste again. Hopefully, before your taste buds are down for the count, you find something you love.
In our case, the blend we ended up with is 40% Brazilian, 30% Nicaraguan, and 30% Costa Rican. The Brazilian comes from Fazenda Sertao, a farm in Carmo de Minas in the southeast of Brazil. The Sertao wowed us with its richness, body, and distinct chocolate flavor, and it didn’t take long to realize we wanted it as the base of this blend. That Nicaragua adds the bit of acidity needed to make the espresso really pop, with a dark fruit taste that, combined with the Brazil, brings to mind chocolate-covered plums or cherries. The Costa Rican is from Las Lajas, a cooperative whose coffees we have proudly been serving as both single origins and part of our espresso blend for a while now. This year’s crop dials up the caramel sweetness a little, and rounds out the blend with a buttery texture.
Obviously, the most important thing about this espresso blend is that it is, in our opinion, absolutely delicious. But we also think it’s pretty cool that Fazenda Sertao and Las Lajas (70% of the blend) come from farms that Gregorys Coffee baristas and team members have actually visited, toured, and met the owners and employees of. Sertao holds a special place in our hearts as a highlight of Greg and (46th Street’s) Bailey’s origin trip to Brazil, where they spoke extensively with the farmers and got a look at the super-high-elevation farm itself. Last year, Rachel (from Fash Ave) and Naima (from 44th St) spent four days in Costa Rica with the Chacon family, learning about the techniques and dedication to quality that make their coffee so special. Their honey-processed Las Lajas coffee has been a favorite at our shops for a while, and their Perla Negra microlot is a hit every time we get our hands on it. The espresso blend is a hugely important part of our coffee service, and having a personal experience with the people responsible for growing its components makes us confident that it will be totally awesome.
We have very high hopes for this blend, but the ultimate test will be serving it on our machine, with our grinders and our water, and, most importantly, to our regulars. Starting in the middle of next week, we’ll be serving it at the 46th St. Store. We want tons of feedback (and naming suggestions!) so we can get it right before rolling it out full stop. Watch this space and the Twitter for an announcement as soon as we open the first bag, and let us know what you think!
(Further scribblings about our trip to Seattle coming up soon. Preview: we had a lot of delicious coffee.)