Creating seasonal coffee blends is a really fun experience for our roasting team, but we rarely talk about the process we go through to achieve the end result. With the launch of our Summer Block Party Blend, I thought it might be fun to pull back the curtain on the creation of one of our most popular coffees of the year.
When we first introduced this blend five or more years ago, we wanted to create a lively and refreshing coffee that would be enjoyable both hot as well as iced during the warm summer months.
We thought a medium bodied blend that was very fruit forward, like a bowl of mixed summer berries, would be perfect for the season. Think strawberry, blueberry and blackberry, or a light and refreshing sangria. When we introduced the coffee, it took off in popularity and every year since we go back to the drawing board to create a new version of Block Party.
Sourcing Coffees for the Blend
One of the challenges of replicating a seasonal blend is that, from year to year, we are rarely working with the exact same coffees as we did the previous year. This is a natural reality of the world of coffee. Even if we can source coffee from the same farms as before, coffee is dynamic, and there is no guarantee we will end up with the exact same flavor profile as what you had in earlier years.
From the beginning, the base of Block Party has been a super fruity, natural processed Ethiopian coffee. This year we sourced a coffee along these lines from the Omran family at Abana Estate.
Coupled with that fruitiness, Block Party has always had a little bit of earthiness to it as well - not a kind of earthiness that hits you upfront like some Sumatran coffees, but one that kind of comes in later in the finish and is more subtle. For this flavor component, we turned to a washed coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, sourced from the Rebuilding Women’s Hope cooperative. This is a coffee we have been working with as a blend component the past year for one of our wholesale blends, and we thought it might complement the Ethiopian nicely.
Taste, Blend, Adjust, Repeat
The first step in creating any kind of blend is to taste the coffees individually. It is one thing to have an idea in your head, but we really start learning if our ideas are going to come together once we start tasting. There are certainly times when we realize one of the coffees we thought would be perfect will not work. At this point I would say that we have to go back to the drawing board somewhere between 30% and 40% of the time before we get the final coffees right.
After tasting the coffees individually, we begin to combine the coffee in some standard ratios. In this case we started with two coffees, so: 50/50, 60/40, 70/30, etc.
This year, we quickly realized that we were not getting enough of the fruit character from the Ethiopian to pull through when we matched it with the coffee from Congo. So, we decided to add a third coffee as we thought we might be able to bring a coffee into the blend that would heighten the fruitiness but also compliment the Congo. We landed on a pacamara from our friend Luis Alberto Balladarez. We know his pacamaras are always enjoyably fruity and we had a few hundred pounds of one in house.
So, we added it in and then began to blend again. This time in percentages like: 50/30/20, 60/30/10, 40/40/20, etc. varying the coffees and the percentages until we found what we were looking for.
The Finished Product
The final blend percentage that got us to the flavor profile and drinking experience we were looking for is 50% the natural Ethiopia, 30% the washed Congo and 20% the natural pacamara from Nicaragua. This combination landed us on the historic taste that has become so wildly popular around here!
All in all, our team probably invested a total of 16 hours spread out over a few months creating this blend. Because coffee sourcing can have long timelines, we usually start planning and looking for coffees two months in advance of when we need to launch a new blend.
It’s always fascinating to go on these journeys, and it’s great to work in an industry where you can have an idea and then goes through the process of creating something unique that you get to share with the world year after year. Every year is a little bit different; the coffees change but the end goal remains the same, which is that unmistakably Block Party taste.
Hope you enjoy this years Block Party!