Blend’s are a roaster’s bread and butter, their cappuccino. We nerd out on single origins (nothing wrong here) and their flavour profile, altitude, extraction methods, varietals geekery, but where oh where are the blend nerd buckets? Do you think we just toss the bean scraps into a bag, shake it all about and hope for the best? No way Jose! A blend is a puzzle, an enigma shrouded in mystery, a code waiting to be cracked (roasting joke – anyone?). It’s a map to a chest of pirates’ (black market joke – anyone?) treasure, and only a mere few, the Mikey’s, Mouth’s, Data’s, Chunk’s and Sloth’s have the adventurous spirit required to find it.
There aren’t many spirits more adventurous than Jess’, Black Markets’ captain, and she and Ben have struck gold time and time again with Liberty, Rhythm and Oh! Blends. Lucky for us, she told us a few of her secrets to how she and Ben do it – finding ‘that X marks the spot factor’. It’s not for the faint hearted.
First, they decide on the blend’s USP – its Unique Sipping Point, which varies in each of the blends. They determine what they want it to taste like, how and why it will be unique from other blends, how it will be extracted – for espresso or filter? And how it will be drunk – with milk or black?
Once they have a proposed blueprint of the blend, they begin cupping samples, searching for origins that will flesh out the skeleton of their outlines. As they taste and taste the many different origins and estates, they’re thinking about flavour, body and acidity, and how these will fit together to flesh out the blends’ character, giving it its particular personality.
Once the singles are determined, they play around with the ratios of the origins, tweaking both the amount and the roasting style of each until they find the golden ratio (approximately 1.618 for those playing at home). This part of the process has overcome many a hopeful treasure hunter. It takes time, it takes stringent focus on the details, and determination to not settle for anything other than pure gold.
Once they’ve landed on a recipe, the testing phase begins. Tasting, testing, testing and tasting. Each batch is roasted and tested preferably using the same equipment, and cupped at various intervals between one week to three months after the roast date to check for stability and changes over time. Another stage of the journey only accomplished by the heroic and headstrong, not easily dissuaded by the unsparkly aspect of the quest.
But after this leg, this is what it’s all for. The blend has been discovered, explored, tweaked and tested, and now they brew themselves a cuppa and just enjoy. It’s worth it.