Blends, until recently, have been treated as the poorer cousin of single origin and micro lot coffees. The third wave’s emphasis on the farmer, as well as the rise of alternative brewing methods, has created the myth that blends aren’t good coffee.
But fortunately, blends are coming back into fashion – and that’s good news for consumers and coffee shops alike.
Why Are Blends in Fashion Again?
Specialty roasters have always created blends: pioneers such as Stumptown and Blue Bottle have been creating house blends since their inception, while even smaller roasters like Square Mile and Heart always have a seasonal blend on offer.
Yet now, coffee shops and roasters are waking up to the fact that these blends don’t necessarily have to be lower quality than single origins – and, on top of that, they offer several significant benefits.
Blends should always be better than the individual coffees used to make them. If those individual coffees are poor-quality, then the blend will be mediocre at best. But if they’re great, then the resulting coffee will shine for its balanced and satisfying flavours.
A blend allows you to showcase a truly balanced coffee. You can have the bright acidity of a Kenyan or the floral sweetness of an Ethiopian along with a Colombian’s heavier body and a Mexican’s sweetness.
As the quality of specialty coffee increases in general thanks to greater consumer demand and innovations in farming, processing, roasting, and brewing, so too has the quality of most coffee blends.
But that’s not the only benefit.
3 Major Benefits of Blends
1. Affordability & Financial Stability
Blends are usually more affordable than single origins. Single origins and micro lots, after all, represent not just exceptional quality but also additional logistical challenges: keeping those beans separate, tracing the origin, perhaps experimentally processing them… All of this adds up to a higher price tag.
2. Year-Round Availability
Single origins might be available for a few months of the year, but a blend is typically on offer all year round. Even if the original components vary, most roasters will be able to gradually replace them with similar origins so that the change isn’t as noticeable. Other roasters might improve the year-round consistency by including origins with two harvest seasons, like Colombia.
3. Increasing Customer Loyalty & Retention
And let’s not forget that while many coffee shops may offer a single origin, washed processed Colombian or Ethiopian, far fewer places will stock the same house blend as you. Customers who fall in love with that flavour will have to come back to you to taste it again.
Blends allow customers to put their trust in a product that they are willing to spend money on, perhaps even every single day.
5 Tips for Serving and Marketing Specialty Coffee Blends
- Purchase them from a good roaster, one who knows to match the solubility level of each origin so that the different coffees extract at the same rate.
- Market your blends especially for espresso and milk-based drinks. Single origins are often lighter bodied and more acidic than blends, which means they don’t always compliment the creaminess of milk (or alternative milk) quite as well.
- Name your blends so that customers can grow loyal to them.
- Seasonal blends can cater to curious customers who still value a more traditional tasting coffee.
- Be transparent about each origin in the blend to attract the attention of younger demographics, who care deeply about sustainability.