Raise your hand who has never questioned: is it better a blend or a single origin?
First, let’s define the topic of the discussion.
Single origin (or mono-origin)
When we talk about of a single origin we refer to a coffee coming from a determined geographic area: a State, a region or specific area of variable dimension. In itself so the locution is not synonymous of quality or higher cost but simply refers to the source of the raw material.
Often we find it joined to the name Kenya, Ethiopia, Colombia and so on, very large countries where work hundreds of different producers which obviously use various ways of working with the consequence to obtain as much various product outcomes.
The blend is the whole thing of more coffees, a sort of mix of different “single origins”, mixed exactly to achieve a specific organoleptic profile.
Informally we often hear about of “ 50/50”, “60/40”, “90/10”, proportions which indicate nothing else that the percentages of Arabica and Robusta (in this order) contained in the blend.
An excessive generic indication for at least two reasons:
1) Which kind of Arabica and Robusta have been used? Which kind of quality and which characteristics do they have?
An Arabica of low quality surely will be not better than a Robusta of good quality!
2) Being a natural product the coffee is subject to many variables, therefore the proportion can change during the year. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the same coffee performs at the same way in different crops with the obvious consequence to have to calibrate every time the proportions in order to achieve the same organoleptic profile.
The taste in the cup
For the consumer the crucial point of the difference between mono-origin and blend is essentially in the taste in the cup.
Single origin: every degustation is a fascinating discover of aromas and unpredictable flavours, of amazing notes that vary from crop to crop, indulging the variability of the seasons.
Blend: every degustation is a wonderful confirmation, a comforting hug of aromas and flavours, of daily shades.
A beautiful similarity
A dear friend of mine uses to make this beautiful similarity: the mono-origin is an instrument that plays alone, whether it is a piano, a guitar or a sax has to be tasted for the feelings that gives back; the blend is an orchestra, much more difficult to put together but if well managed gives back a unique result.
So, whether it is a blend or a mono-origin, the compliments go to those roasters that are able to make their coffee sounding well throughout the year!