Single Origin or Blend. The Choice is Yours.

Coffee is an amazing beverage. Today, there are so many ways to drink it, it seems you could go a month and never have the same coffee “concoction” twice. For me, a cup of hot, black coffee has become my preference. For others, it may need milk, flavor, sugar, ice, honey, or whatever it is that makes it “your” coffee. However you drink it, you should enjoy it. One of the questions I often get from people is “what is the difference between a blend and a single origin coffee?”. I’ll try to help you out with that.

A coffee blend, typically something you see at your local Starbucks, Second Cup, and dare I say it, Tim Hortons, is a blend of coffees from around the world that are put together in an effort to create something good out of coffees that have a variety of characteristics. You can typically tell if a coffee is a blend by the name. Blends tend to have exotic or fun names that in no way tell you anything about the countries of the coffees that are in them. Blends are often made to try to take some characteristics of each of the coffees in the blend-citrus, chocolate, earthy, nutty, or whatever-and create a flavor profile that people will enjoy.

Blending can also be used to help reduce the overall cost of the coffee itself. Robusta is a coffee that is typically less expensive to buy and has a higher caffeine content. Your local gas station or side of the road coffee stop likely has a blend that they serve which contains robusta. This is primarily a cost saving measure. That gas station blend likely doesn’t have much high quality coffee in it anyway, so I guess the extra caffeine is where the bonus comes in. Tim Hortons may be the best example of a large corporation using a blend to create their “one and only” coffee. I don’t know if they use robusta, likely not, but they do use coffees from a variety of countries to create their “coffee.” It’s also roasted “specially” for them to create that consistent cup of coffee that many people enjoy. (Sorry, I don’t fit into that category. But that’s another story.) Starbucks is famous for having a wide variety of blends of coffees each with their own exotic and fancy name. They do seem to be moving more and more toward single origin offerings, but their blends are certainly the most economical way for them to overcharge the consumer for the drinks they serve in their stores.

Single origin coffee is where I focus as a roaster. By sticking with single origin, each of my coffees maintains its unique characteristics and flavors for my customers to enjoy. The best example of this is the wide variety of coffee that is available for me to purchase green from my supplier in Calgary, Single Origin Coffee. (Great name,eh!) Carlos (yes, he is from Colombia) is the owner, and his newest business partner, Jeff, do a great job of bringing in high quality single origin coffees from around the world. Of course, with Carlos’ background and connections in Colombia, it only makes sense that his largest volume of coffee is from there. I have had the pleasure of trying 5 of the coffees he has brought in from Colombia, and each has been fantastic. And each, being a single origin, has its own unique flavor profile. Right now, I have two different Colombian coffees to offer. One is called Campo Alegre. It is a regional coffee that is grown at a lower altitude which gives it a more full bodied, heavier mouthfeel (that’s coffee talk) than the other coffee I have with is from the Santander region. This is a higher altitude coffee which is a much cleaner, brighter, and higher acidic coffee (more coffee talk) than the Alegre. Both are fantastic coffees, as have all the coffees from Colombia that I have been able to try. The great thing about them being single origins, is that you get to enjoy two very different coffees from the same country, without losing their unique characteristics from being in a blend.

Sometimes though, you do need to step out of the box and try something new. I do carry a couple of blends that you can order. They are both darker roasts and evolved more out of customer requests than a true desire to blend coffee. My Dark Side Blend (if you know me, it’s a Star Wars reference) and my Espresso Blend are two blends that you can order off my regular list of available coffees. I have also created some custom blends for local coffee stops– Station Coffee Co and Inspire Cafe. These are unique to them so you’ll have to go visit if you want to try them. At Station, you will enjoy my Train Wreck, as well as Dark Side, available there as brewed coffees. At Inspire, the medium and dark roast blends are available as French Press coffees. I have also created some custom blends for people for special occasions which is one of the great things about what I do.

So, hopefully that helps clear up some confusion. If you look at my list of offerings, you’ll see that I carry over 12 different single origin coffees from around the world. Single orign will continue to be my focus, but I certainly won’t limit it to just that. Sometimes you just need to be a little adventurous and try something new. Like blending.

Thoughts on K Cups

Ok. I’m going to go out on a limb here. If you are a K Cup user, please don’t stop reading if you come across something that upsets you. That’s not the goal. The goal is to provide some information about K Cups, and why they are not only incredibly bad for the environment, but how I think I can show you why it’s not very fresh coffee. And I might add something about the high cost of using them as well. Just in case you weren’t already convinced how bad they are.

I’ll begin with what I think I can actually show you about how K Cups are not even remotely close to being fresh roasted coffee. The picture of the bag is one of my 2 oz stocking stuffers that we offer for the Christmas season. The reason it is all puffy like a pillow is that after roasting, coffee has gas. Yes, gas. CO2 gas actually. It’s part of a number of reactions that take place as a result of the roastin2 oz coffee bagg process. And the CO2 helps protect the coffee from it’s number one enemy, air. As the coffee degasses, the CO2 pushes air away from the beans to help keep them fresh. However, this process doesn’t go on for ever. Depending on what you read, coffee can degas for up to 30 days, but the process is much more effective at preserving freshness for the first 15-20 days. Which is when the coffee is at it’s peak freshness and best flavor. Once it’s done degassing, it’s losing flavor quickly.

So, how does that relate to the pillow picture. Imagine if the coffee in your Kcup was fresh roasted. You would think that the packaging would blow up like a pillow as well. Sadly, it doesn’t. Because the coffee is so old it has no gas left to protect it from going stale. But it does have other “stuff” added to help it smell like coffee. Which is a whole other chemical reaction discussion. In case you were wondering why coffee bags don’t blow up like a pillow, it’s because they have a valve in them that allows the CO2 to escape but keep oxygen out.Coffee bag

As for the environmental impact, that’s a whole other very troubling story. It’s estimated that in 2013, enough Kcups went into landfills to circle the equator 10.5 times. How many is that, you ask? Approximately 966 million pounds of waste. In 2013 alone, 8.3 billion Kcups were produced. And they are not recyclable, or compostable. So you use them and throw them away. Or, if they don’t sell, they are disposed of in the local landfill. The plan is to make them more environmentally friendly by 2020. If you do the math, without accounting for increasing sales, that’s over 40 billion more produced and ending up in landfills somewhere, (and as you can see by my math, that’s a conservative number)  So the question I ask is, is the convenience worth the overall impact. For me, it is not.

And finally, on a simple money note. I sell fresh roasted coffee from around the world for between $14 and $25 per lb, depending on where it is from and it’s availability. Other coffees sell for more, but I top out at around $40 per lb for the Jamaica Blue Mountain premium coffee that I bring in periodically.  And this is for top quality, fresh roasted coffee that I purchase, roast, bag and hand deliver myself. If you went out and bought a package of Folgers (yes, I said Folgers) K cups, you would be paying over $50 per lb for a coffee you have no idea where it is from, how it was processed or roasted, and if anything was added to it. (Chances are good something was!)

So, you as the consumer get to decide. Is the convenience of the K cup system worth the environmental impact? Is it worth paying $50 per pound for low quality coffee that you know nothing about?

And finally, here’s a link to a video that was produced in 2014 about the world takeover by K cups. It’s a fun watch. Some adult language (even I was surprised).