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The Creation of 1942 Blend

How do you come up with a blend? 

When my grandfather was a young man training to be a master grocer the shops he worked in all sold coffee. The choices of coffee they offered to their customers were almost all blends. By blending different beans together and keeping the recipes to themselves they could all offer a unique product, a house blend, breakfast blend, after-dinner blend and so on. Just how unique these blends were is anyone’s guess. They would all have been dependent on wholesalers for the coffees they were sourcing and these wholesalers would be selling to a variety of competitive businesses so it is very likely that these blends were either very similar or maybe even identical. In which case it was down to the skill of the roaster to perfect the signature flavour of the coffee.

Our current coffee list is largely made up of single origin coffees and this has been the case for the last forty years or more. We are not interested in keeping secrets from our customers about the origin of our coffee whether they be single origin or a blend. But why have blends at all? All but one of our current blends were either invented by my grandfather or my father. The exception is our 1942 Blend which is my invention. Even as I write this, I am realising that as far as I can remember this is the only blend I have created which has become part of our permanent list, which only shows how focused we are on single origin coffees, especially if you consider that I have now been in the business for over forty years.

The original idea of the blend was to offer a coffee designed specifically for espresso. It would have to be strong enough to work with milk, not too acidic if drunk black, but sweet and fruity. As it was also being offered to wholesale customers it had to be made using beans that were always available and in large enough volume. 

My father always said that single origin coffees are like solo instruments whereas the blend is the full orchestra and using that analogy encourages one to think of which coffee forms the bass notes, which the treble and which the soprano. Normally I find a blend of three different coffees is enough to find the flavour I’m looking for. I chose a Brazil Santos as the bass note, a smooth coffee with a hint of cherry and low in acidity, the Colombia Supreme has the middle notes, slight acidity but also roasted longer to balance this against the fruit, and Costa Rica which has the light soft fruitiness of lychees and a honey finish. Firstly, I did a roast of each to the strength I wanted and then tried combining them in varying proportions. It is not often that you can put all three coffees into the roaster and roast them together as the beans don’t all reach their best flavour at the same time. It is rather like trying to boil potatoes, brussels sprouts, and peas in the same pot together. 

This blend really did work first time for me and everyone else who tasted it. There is always a certain amount of prevarication when it comes to deciding if the blend is as good as it can be, when it can be released for everyone to judge. This time was no exception but having tried a few tweaks I ended up where I had begun and had to accept that first impressions don’t lie.

Having created the blend the next decision was what to call it. Should the name convey the style of flavour or brewing method? In the end we plumped for 1942 Blend, the year our business started, not so much because we are looking back in time but also because of looking forward. 19 years from now it will be 2042, and hopefully we shall be celebrating our 100th year in business. Whatever the future holds we will continue to support sustainable coffee farms and ever be looking for new and exciting coffees.


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