Blending Of Coffee

( Originally Published 1900 )

WE may ask, is this always necessary ? To this there can be but one answer : No, it is not necessary, but it is often beneficial. There are certainly a very large number of grocers who are content to use one kind only, and there are many coffees which are perfectly good and useful by themselves. In fact, excellent coffee can be made with any one description by itself, and speaking generally, in all probability the bulk of the coffee consumed throughout the world is not a mixture of even two kinds. The Brazilian would be astonished at the suggestion that any other coffee should be mixed with his own product for his own drinking. The planter in India or Ceylon, in fact the inhabitants of any coffee-producing country would not think of importing other kinds to mix with the home product, while in the great consuming countries of Europe and the United States of America, though there is a great deal of blending carried on, there is also a great quantity sold without such blending.

Now with regard to the art of blending—and there is an art in it—no well-defined rules can be laid down, for, in the first place, much depends upon the water in the locality where it is to be consumed, and, secondly, a grocer should aim at producing something just different to his neighbours and competitors, but one which will be in one way or another superior. To understand then how best to blend, a knowledge of the characteristics of the different growths is essential, and yet to describe them is almost impossible, for, as has been previously said, a taste cannot be really described in words. Further, no growth has one particular flavour in all its various grades. There is as much difference between, say, an early shipment of a fine, bold, London cleaned, J. Dent, Costa Rica, and one of the last shipped, foreign cleaned, of the same mark, containing as it may one per cent. of " blacks," and as there is between that same fine Costa Rica and many a parcel of Colombian. What follows, therefore, must be taken to apply principally to fine grades of the different growths, though it will equally apply to the other grades if they are blended together in their various grades, and not allowing the common ones to be mixed with and spoil the finer qualities.

Costa Rica. We take this kind first simply because it is undoubtedly the greatest favourite in this country, and not because we consider it the finest flavour of any kind. It is, however, in most years, in most plentiful supply, for curiously, it is not a great favourite in any other country, and yet it is a good self-drinking description. In taste its characteristic is acidity—there is a wide difference between acidity and sourness—a sour taste is most objectionable, but an acid one is, on the other hand, most pleasing. At the same time most Costa Rica is thin, and perhaps there is no description of fine coffee, unless it is Mexican, which requires more care in selecting, for—owing to the soil possibly—it occasionally develops a flavour known as " bricky," or, worse still, unclean. If carefully selected, therefore, this kind may safely form the basis of most blends, and especially when the water is soft.

East India. Here again there is a vast difference of flavours varying from a thick, rich, pungent Mysore, through a strong Naidoobatum or Neilgherry with often almost as much " body " as a Mysore, down to an acid yet full bodied Coorg. An excellent blend can be made with equal parts of a fine Mysore or Naidoobatum mixed with Costa Rica ; or with a smaller, or greater quantity of the Indian growth according to the hardness or softness of the water, East India developing perhaps best in the hard water. These two kinds are without doubt the principal favourites of the United Kingdom, and perhaps wisely so, as the bulk of both these crops are generally shipped here, and consequently there is, as a rule, a good selection at all times of the year. There are, of course, many other kinds used, but for anyone who is going to adopt such for their best blends, it will be advisable to secure sufficient for a year's supply, when the crops first arrive, as they are often not to be had as the season advances.

Jamaica. The finer grades of this description are undoubtedly the finest coffee that is grown. They may be described as acid and yet very thick, while there is a certain peculiar " nutty " flavour with the finest of all, which makes them stand out from any other coffee, and when used judiciously in a blend will give point and tone unobtainable elsewhere. Another characteristic which is greatly to its benefit is that Jamaica retains its aroma after roasting longer than any other kind, though both Ceylon and Mysore come not very far behind in this respect. This is a feature which perhaps has not received as much attention as it should have, but as long as householders will buy a fortnight, or even a month's stock at one time, it is evident that the growth which is least likely to become flat is the one which should be most used.

Vera Paz. It is rather surprising that this description is not a greater favourite. If carefully selected it is one of the most useful for blending purposes. It has an exceptionally thick liquor and when mixed with Costa Rica gives it " body " and " tone " such as is sure to be appreciated. Some of the finest bold parcels of this growth will fetch nearly as much money as the choicest mountain Jamaica, but the smaller sizes, which sell at much the same price as Costa Rica or even cheaper, are of excellent quality and should be used more than they have _been. It needs care in selecting, and more even than some other growths, for it is particularly liable to deteriorate with age. Last season's coffee will probably have become woody," but as there is not a large quantity of this growth, and it is said that it is likely to be less, there is not much chance of the crops overlapping one another.

Colombian. This is a coffee which may often be used with great advantage for a medium and cheap price. Its chief characteristic is thickness, and at the same time, in many cases, a rich piquant flavour which will come through a blend of other kinds and produce a very favourable liquor, particularly where a high roast is desired. When kept for some length of time this growth will produce a decidedly mellow flavour which has often been compared to a Java. Particularly was this the case in 1903-4 when large quantities of old crop arrived after the closing of the revolution which had lasted for three years and had delayed the forwarding of the successive crops. Those parcels that had been carefully stored, so as not to become musty, were much sought after both in Holland and the United States to mix in the raw state with Java, and it was often difficult to detect that this had been done.

Mocha. Here is a coffee so absolutely different in flavour from any other that its mixture can very readily be detected. It is not wise to use this coffee by itself, for in very few cases would it be liked. When the taste for it is once acquired its absence will be immediately detected and therefore, unless it is always going to be used, it should not be introduced. A very small quantity will, however, greatly improve most blends, even as little as ten or fourteen pounds to the hundred-weight will give an additional thickness, and, generally speaking, a " body " which will make a blend stand out and be more highly appreciated.

Mexican. There are many grades of this growth, and if the hard " flinty " kinds be secured they may be used very satisfactorily, often taking the place of the Costa Rica in a blend. At the same time, it is particularly needful to exercise care in purchasing this growth and it is not wise to store it for any length of time, as it is liable to become musty or rank.

San Paulo. During the last ten years, or so, there has been a great improvement in this growth. From being badly prepared for market and nearly always of a bricky flavour it is now possible to buy it fit to mix in with many of the cheaper and medium blends. Much more care has been taken in the cultivation. Many estates have been planted with trees grown from the finest East Indian and Arabian seeds, and with the rich fertile virgin soil, which is a characteristic of this particular Province of Brazil, a coffee has been produced which has grown in favour in all parts of the world. It can be and is largely used, either by itself for a distinctively cheap quality or blended with others, to reduce the price, yet not materially reducing the quality.

As has been said, no hard and fast rules can be given as to the blending of coffee, but it is hoped that sufficient has been here described to allow of an intelligent use to be made of the various kinds, so that it will be possible for anyone to produce a mixture of the various kinds, to please all the varying fancies which are demanded by different consumers.

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