Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Blend Building with Honduras

Again it's time to take a new step forward with our House Blend.
In the past we promoted all kind of blends, today we focus on the first place on our House Blend, with on the side all kinds of single origin blends.

The first of May and the first of October are crucial dates at Caffenation. Our new menu is launched and it's an excellent opportunity to fling in some new beans and improve the House Blend.
Whole summer i've been on the look out for some new blenders. What i see internationally and on championships is specialty coffee beans that are thrown in the mix, but it isn't that easy for us. What are the criteria for our House Blend components ?
1) It needs to be stable in quality trough out the year. Some Latin American coffee's, like the Santo Domingo, get a old grass taste after 6 months, others like the El Salvador Picacho stay more stable.
2) They have to blend in with the other beans. I constantly have problems mixing up the Harrar with other beans. With the Yirgacheffe it's way easier.
3) Pricewise. We sell our House Blend €11,50 a kilo to professionals (vat incl.). You understand there is not so much room for 'specialty's'. The El Salvador and Honduras SHG we found are really affordable. Ony a 10% above the better Cerrado or Santos beans.
Why this low price tag? Very simple : we want to bring the coffee to the people and not the other way around. Caffenation offers the best beans with the highest transparency combined with the best Barista training. Offering fancy cups, machinery, publicity or marketing plans is not our goal. We want the people here to drink good coffee. Via this system it's a very accessible step in and our training enables all people with decent machinery to improve their coffee quality significantly from the first shot on.
4) The beans need to be easy to work with on espresso and stable over time.
Ever tried to pull decent shots with f.e. a single origin African? When the weather changes or the beans get a tad older you'll notice it's very very hard to keep the shot flow great. Or take these Champion winning blends from Klaus Thompson and James Hoffmann for example. Very fresh and in the hands of these prime Barista's it can taste fantastic, but a bit older and with average equipment and with less experienced Barista's the coffee comes out as a dragon.
What we need is a blend easy to use and stable over time - i mean for the first two to maximum three weeks. Solid crema development without Robusta wasn't an easy step, but i guess we found the beans and combinations to conquer this problem.
5) Antwerp is a great port for coffee beans and our roaster(s) do a fantastic job, but they do not have hundreds of beans we can pick from. Via different Mysore's, Cerrado's, Tarrazu's and others we ended with some beans from Honduras. A country that has been making a huge step up lately. I remember tasting some Honduras together with my roaster two years ago and we were not impressed. But that one Honduras Monte Cristo Estate from AKC i tasted a couple months ago was surprisingly accurate. Not the greatest single shot, but on the cupping table we thought of tasting something that was blendable. From that one on we found another Honduras, origin unknown. The first medium and full city roast were very convincing and now, after 30 kilo's of testing we found the right roasting profile and blend.
6) My dream is to compete on Championships with this main Caffenation Blend. To show all coffee drinkers at the bars or clients retail and wholesale their blend is top notch.

After struggling for years to make a 100% arabica blend that's strong enough to please everyone, from the most inexperienced latte drinker to the best qualified Championship judge, i guess i find one.
Our base for the House Blend was mainly Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and El Salvador Picacho SHG. We always added some Santos as a filler and to lighten up the mix and a 20% mixture of dark roasted beans (Costa Rica, Brazil, Indian Robusta and Java) for color, bitterness and easiness.
Today we increased the El Salvador Percentage. These beans are fantastic on mouthfeel and very well balanced. We kept the Yirgacheffe on 30 percent. Fruit and acidity as main taste characteristics, but first of all a very stable and good blender and ... very tasteful cooling down and therefor excellent in Iced Coffee's. And we threw in the Honduras. First in combination with the other particles, but now on a 30% base and it seems to work. On the first shots of 10 days old beans we found it very good but you could taste in the espresso's a tiny little bit of sharpness on (i guess) the Picacho, but fresher is was perfect.
Now it's time for some more testing on different machines and other brewing equipment, but it's a sure thing we are getting forward.

Soon i tell you more about this Honduras bean we found. It's still a little vague where it comes from exactly, but i hope to know more about it soon.

Can't wait for my next cup of ... New House Blend espresso.

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