Regionals or blends? It all depends

Volume 37, . Comments

People ask us about blends all the time. When we blend, we take coffees from different regions or different zones within a region and blend them together to achieve a consistently good cup. That’s how our Dark Roast came about. We set out to create a coffee with a taste that is exactly what people think about when they think of Costa Rican coffee – a coffee that tastes as good as it smells.

Britt Dark Roast accounts for about half our coffee sales. People like it because by blending, we can ensure an outstanding flavor, body and aroma, all year long. How?

Coffee is subject to the microclimates of its growing region. Its flavor changes from the time it’s picked to months after harvest. You blend to get a consistent flavor.

Plenty of coffee snobs insist on blends – the Italians, for example. It Italy, a good coffee is a blended coffee. The blend is a reflection of the art of coffee making. Nature and science do the rest.

Over the last decade or so, there’s been a movement toward “traceability.” Many people have come to enjoy the flavor variations of unblended, regional coffees. This is where you can really taste nature’s contribution to the process.

Costa Rica’s Tarrazu region has very marked wet and dry seasons. Coffee is under stress here, because the dry season is longer, the altitude is higher and the soils are poor. These conditions produce a very dense, very strong, in-your-face coffee, because it’s had to struggle.

The Tres Ríos region has an ideal climate, very good soils and a history of five generations of coffee-making. This coffee is very elegant.

The fertile region around the Poas Volcano also has very good soils, but the climate is changeable. Heavy mist often shrouds the sun for days at a time.  The flavor of this coffee is very complex.

Science – the roast and the machinery – also affects coffee’s flavor. If we take a good coffee and roast it longer, until the beans’ natural oils come to the surface, we have Espresso. If we blend a coffee for consistency and roast it less, we have Light Roast.

At our roastery in Heredia we do a “cata” or coffee-tasting workshop, so visitors can experience the subtleties of nature, art and science in coffee making. We start off with Britt Light Roast, Espresso and Decaf. These are all blends with distinctive flavors. It’s easy to tell the difference. Then we go on to compare our other coffees. The comparison becomes trickier, but by the end of the workshop, our visitors can taste the subtle differences.

So, who’s the bigger coffee snob? The person who prefers a blend or the one who prefers a regional?

I’ve been drinking Café Britt every day for the last 20 years, and I jump around. I’ll maybe drink Dark Roast a couple days in a row. This morning I had Poas. The other day I had Tres Ríos.

It all depends on personal preference. It depends on how you feel. And it’s all good.

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About Steve Aronson

New York coffee broker Steve Aronson founded Café Britt in 1985 to market roasted Costa Rican coffees to the world.


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