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Vienna Blend - Mr Higgins Recommends
When I joined the company, seven years after it opened, under my father’s tuition I began to study how coffee and coffee drinking found its way to the heart of so many of our European cities, the romance and legend of its introduction into Vienna fascinated me. Though coffee and coffee drinking became popular in London some thirty-one years before coffee reached Vienna, that city would in time become a beacon for the sophistication and style of its coffee and coffee-houses.  

In 1953, when I joined H R Higgins, Vienna was still an occupied city, and in Sir Winston Churchill’s words an iron curtain had descended and one looked east from occupied Vienna to countries and people almost completely cut off from the rest of us in Europe.Our customers comprised of a significant proportion of refugees from Europe at that time and one famous Austrian coffee merchant.
Living then in London, said to my father “When they come into your shop don’t rush them out, let them meet and talk, they have probably nowhere else to go. Coffee was a precious commodity in the occupied countries, and we would send parcels of roasted beans from relatives to relatives and friends. As one customer said to me, seeing me packing the parcels. “You know, that person is not going to drink that coffee but sell it. It is worth more than their local currency.

 As Europe began to recover from the second world war and its aftermath, the Viennese coffee houses, always popular and centres of life, began to flourish.  And in the United Kingdom, supplies of coffee became more abundant and of higher quality.  I shared some lovely moments with my father as we tasted quality coffees from much wider sources including those which because of former dollar purchasing restrictions had been denied to us. 

I put it to my father that the availability of these higher quality coffees should be reflected not only in our single origin varieties but in our speciality blends, that Vienna Blend was a case in point.  To do him credit, my father listened, but to change a coffee that was already popular was fraught with all kinds of problems.  Why change a winning line?  But I pressed the point that we now had the means of creating something which could more reflect the unique style and individuality of the Vienna coffee houses of former days and perhaps of days to come.  

To do him credit my father let me have my way, and commissioned me to sensitively re-create our Vienna Blend, having due regard to the success it had already achieved.  I roasted, blended and cupped, sharing the results with my father when I felt I had a result worthy of presenting. At last there was blend which we both approved, then we tried it out on the staff and then customers, and to my excitement even the most loyal customers to the former blend gave it their approval.

Each of the varieties that go to make our Vienna Blend is roasted separately to their unique profiles.  Its features are smoothness with a hint of a more subtle power and body, a hint of acidity and ripe pear.  A coffee for anytime, with or without food. I confess I enjoy it best simply on its own, or, if I am indulging myself, it goes so well with a cake or pastry.

Some years ago, I took a telephone call from a customer and found to my amazement that I was speaking with the world-famous violinist and conductor Yehudi Menuhin.  In conversation he told me that of all our varieties he had tried so far, the variety he enjoyed the most was our Vienna Blend.

I do hope you enjoy this month’s coffee, a tribute to the unique quality and style of the coffee and coffee houses of Vienna.

With my very best wishes

Tony Higgins 

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