An ideal cup
of coffee should have good aroma, good color (if milk or cream is to be
added), good body, and good tastes for whichever way the coffee will be
roasted, brewed and served at any intended time of day. Out of the
millions of bags of coffee processed every year, relatively few can
provide the "ideal cup" criteria without a little help from their friends,
the other coffees with whom they will be blended. Regarding the few that
can stand alone, they will probably not provide an all-round, perfect,
well-balanced cup; rather, they will have one or two particularly fine
points which more than compensate for falling short on another aspect or
Each coffee used in a blend should make its own contribution. Dark
roasting hides the not-so-desirable flavors of robust as, and of other
coffees which may happen to have lower acidity, but usually have good
body, which is only enhanced by the dark roast. Conversely, many
high-grown Arabica, while producing a sharp flavor that can dominate the
overall tastes of other less acidic coffees, are "thin-in-the-cup", and
lack body. With these watery Arabica, the solution is not to roast darker,
as roasting burns off the acids that contribute to the sharp, "expensive"
taste. Other coffees may be pleasantly acceptable, having no particularly
distinctive quality either to recommend or condemn them; these neutrals
are ideal for bulking out a blend, as their flavors are not obtrusive, nor
are they lacking in body.
There are no rules or taboos in blending coffees, but the idea is to
combine coffees that complement each other, not those that are similar. A
good starting point, therefore, for a middle-of the-road, any-time-of-day
well-rounded cup of coffee, would be a blend of perhaps 35 per cent
high-grown Arabica to provide the dominant flavor, 15 per cent
darker-roasted Robusta or heavier-bodied, lower-acidity coffee to provide
the body, and 50 per cent of a more neutral and possibly more affordable
coffee, like an average Brazilian Santos, or one of the slightly lower
quality and less expensive Central American coffees. The character of this
blend could be changed considerably just by altering the proportions.
Also, lowering the proportions of each would allow for the addition of a
small amount of a different, fourth, coffee, perhaps an unwashed Arabica,
as most "natural" Arabica are known for their sweetness.
All blends should be worked out in percentage weights with a taste or
style in mind, whether the overall blend is to be, for example, a "fruity"
blend; a "mild" breakfast coffee; a deep, rich, syrupy after-dinner
indulgence; a naturally low-caffeine blend; a high-caffeine "pick-me-up"
with lots of caffeine-rich Robusta; or perhaps simply a strong-flavored
coffee to provide the basis of an alcoholic coffee cocktail. If a blend is
to be used often and remain consistent, the availability and affordability
of each particular coffee must be considered.
A few combinations of particular coffees are so successful that they have
become standards through the years. Mocha (either from Yemen or a
reasonable second from Ethiopia) and Mysore from India are the most famous
coffee marriage. Mocha-Java will be a bit earthier and heavy, but still
winey, and wild (or gamey) from the Mocha. A very particular Mocha-Brazil
combination is that favored by Middle-Eastern roasters for the traditional
"Turkish" coffee flavor: the Brazilian coffee is the famous, or infamous,
rio-y flavor. A good Brazilian Santos will smooth out an average Robusta
to make a strong, smooth blend, while a blend requiring some lightness can
be illuminated by the addition of some Kenyan coffee, or a high-grown
Central American. A Haiti or a Peruvian adds some decent flavor without
being too expensive. An aged coffee adds sweetness, and a Colombian can
add aroma as well as body and flavor.
In America, a "New Orleans Blend", and in Britain a "French Blend",
neither to be confused with any degree of roast, is a blend of coffee and
the roots of the chicory plant, just as a "Viennese" blend in Britain
contains roasted fig or fig-seasoning ground in with the coffee. Of these
two "economy" blends, the Viennese is cheaper, being the least expensive
coffee blend of the average British supermarket range.