Behind the Blend: Summer
A Q&A with Blue Bottle QC Director Ben Brewer
As Director of Quality Control at Blue Bottle, Ben is the braintrust behind our coffee roasting and blending, setting the rules on what coffees can be blended and how. He recently sat down with us to share the inspirations behind Summer Blend 2019, which combines two exceptional single origins, one from Kenya and one from Ethiopia.
For our 2019 Summer Blend, how did you land on the mix of washed Ethiopia and Kenya coffees? How does that combination achieve that buoyant, all-fruit taste?
If you’re on the coffee team, Summer is a dream blend. You work with the same blender coffees over so many years, you start to wonder what else you can do. Summer combines the best aspects of East African coffees. When we blend with this Ethiopia and Kenya, because they’re so exceptional, they tend not to make up more than fifteen or thirty percent any one blend. Summer is sixty-forty washed Ethiopia to Kenya.
When we first drafted Summer, we knew we wanted the primary coffee influence to be washed Ethiopia. Kenya was kind of a bonus. Kenyan coffee is sought-after for its phosphoric qualities— basically the effervescence in the cup. Kenyan coffees have a higher abundance of phosphoric acid. This lively quality has not only the cultivar and the environment in which they’re grown to thank, but also the processing method used to transform the coffee cherry into a coffee bean. Generally, if we use Kenyan coffees in our blends, they are bright accents and make up less than fifteen percent of the total. This comes down to our desire to create balanced blends, as well as the fact that they’re more expensive. Unless you’re going to sell them as a single origin, it’s smart to use only a small amount. Adding a Kenya to a washed Ethiopia is like adding sparkle to the sparkle.
It’s the birthplace of coffee! So Ethiopia has a wider expression of varietals. It’s famous for both its washed Arabicas and its naturals; Summer features a washed Ethiopia from Sidama. Especially in the last few years, the flavor profile of a washed Sidama has become almost interchangeable with Yirgacheffe: tea rose or jasmine, a floral nuance, then stone fruit and citrus. You come across it and you say, “Aha—that's what I want to drink the rest of my life.”