Who has never chosen a product because of the look of its packaging? Marketing is strong, we are all victims of it! Our lack of experience or knowledge about coffee sometimes leads us to make random or spontaneous choices, mainly based on the label, when it comes time to shop our beans for home. It's not bad in itself, since it pushes us to make discoveries! On the other hand, if you have particular tastes, or specific expectations, certain basic notions can help you aim for a safe bet the next time. First of all, it is interesting to distinguish a mixture from an original grain.
HOW TO DISTINGUISH AN ORIGINAL COFFEE AND A BLEND?
An origin coffee is pure because it comes from a single variety of beans from the same producer, while a blend is an assembly of several different origin coffee varieties.
To distinguish the blends of origins at Smith, just look at the name of the coffee on the bag. If the name is also that of a region or a country, it is a grain of origin. If the name on the bag is an invented name, like for example the 1653 or the Tour de l'île, we have mixtures there.
• What is a "blend" coffee?
It is a blend of coffees from different origins, in an often kept secret recipe, which offers unusual and unique flavors. It is also said to be a "heterogeneous" coffee due to the varieties and/or multiple origins of the beans that compose it.
I like to draw a parallel with the world of sommellerie, by presenting a mixture as an assembly. As with grapes from different vineyards or grape varieties, it is possible to make blends of several grain origins.
• What is an origin coffee?
An origin coffee is a single variety of beans, which comes from a single producer or farm. An origin coffee is said to be "pure" or even "homogeneous" because it is composed of beans from a single origin and is not mixed with other varieties.
But what does it actually change in terms of taste?
The original beans allow you to taste the terroir, the particularities of a specific region. Some original coffees are exceptional coffees, the difference from one roasting house to another will be seen above all in the cooking of the beans. Each origin has a particular aromatic profile, linked to the climate of the place where the beans are grown. The blend, for its part, is just as interesting, since it is an original creation of the roaster. As we mix several origins together at different dosages, we can create a coffee that will have a beautiful depth, nuances, a uniqueness. By mixing the origins we can also control certain taste parameters, such as acidity or bitterness for example. Blends are often popular because they represent creativity, but also the DNA of a roasting house. The blending possibilities are endless, so it's a nice playground for roasters.
Subsequently, in order to better target the tastes and aromas you prefer in your cup, it is important to understand the different coffee processing methods. As you may know, the coffee cherry comes from the coffee tree. Once the cherries have been harvested, we mainly distinguish 3 types of possible treatments.
What are the coffee processing methods?
There are 3 major coffee processing methods. The best known and most widespread is the washed process. There is also the "honey" treatment and its variations ("white honey", "yellow honey", "red honey" and "black honey"). Finally, we have the so-called natural process which is increasingly sought after.
• THE WASHED PROCESS
First, the grains can be washed. This implies that we completely remove the pulp, therefore the fruit around the grains, and then dry them. This method ensures good taste stability and is appreciated by the majority of coffee lovers. It is also the most common.
• THE "HONEY" PROCESS
The second process is honey. There are several degrees for this process, namely white honey, yellow honey, red honey and black honey. Honey means leaving pulp, also called mucilage, on the beans for fermentation. The fermentation intensity scale indicates whether it is white (less pulp, therefore less fermented) or black (the most intense). Between these two extremes are yellow and red honey. In terms of taste, the more pulp we keep on the grain, the more we will smell the fruit in the mouth. This process is interesting because it makes it possible to discover more surprising taste profiles. However, this treatment can give slightly less equal results from batch to batch, since it is a more artisanal method compared to the partial removal of the pulp which can vary over production. If you are curious to try a honey, you will find Costa Rica Villalobos on our shelves right now, a delicious red honey with aromas of black cherry and chocolate.
• THE NATURAL PROCESS
Even funkier than honey, natural coffee is the third possible process. The fruit is preserved entirely on the grains which ferment between 3 weeks and a month. This type of coffee is definitely for a more adventurous clientele, as the fruity notes are very intense, almost vinified due to fermentation. Natural coffees are more and more popular and appreciated, because people want to discover distinctive tastes, products processed differently, more creatively.
Whether you are a bit more conservative or rather adventurous, the next time we meet in front of our bags of grain, you will have some tools to make a choice according to the expectations and desires you have, I am sure!
Barista expert, trainer & writer on our blog. Meet Sarah-Ève every day of the week in our Limoilou branch!
Check out his story here...