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May 2016 Newsletter

I've been looking back into the past so that I can give a detailed
history of "Alan's Blend" to www.coffeereview.com. They have asked
for samples of coffees designed for brewing, rather than for
espresso, from Australian roasters. I thought I'd take a chance and
submit my first blend, which was of course originally designed for
syphon brewing.

Back in 1985 I'd spent the first six months of the year cupping
coffees from every Melbourne roaster I could find (this was years
before I started to roast my own) and finally ending up with eight
single origin coffees. They were Brazil Santos, Colombian
Maragogype, Costa Rica SHB, Kenya AA, Ethiopian Harar, Nicaraguan
Maragogype, New Guinea Blue Mountain and SWP Colombian Decaff,
supplied by five different roasters. These were the best coffees I
could find, culled from a couple of hundred starting candidates.

Then I started drinking the individual coffees, one per day, so I
could write down my flavour descriptions of each one. After several
weeks I had a pretty clear idea of how each coffee tasted. I also
had ideas of how the flavours could be "improved". Very few single
origin coffees are perfect in all respects; intensity, flavour,
aroma, acidity, body and aftertaste vary so much between origins.

So I started blending coffees together, only 2 coffees at a time,
trying to discover what worked. Mostly I found what didn't work, but
I had a few successes. The foundations of my blend were Costa Rica
SHB and Nicaraguan Maragogype. The result was good but not great, it
needed more body and richer flavour, and adding Colombian Maragogype
to the mix proved to be the essential ingredient. I had a blend with
upfront sweet acidity, a rich middle palate coffee flavour and a
smooth, full bodied finish.

Initially the blend was just for me, basically my breakfast coffee,
but when my customers asked me which coffee I drank they wanted to
try it too. In a fairly short time "Alan's Blend" became our top
selling coffee, and it still is. Of course, there have been tweaks
to the recipe over the years but the basic structure remained
constant until 2015.

Last year we faced a disaster. The Maragogype varietal is both low
yielding and prone to disease. The low yields have made it expensive
and hard to source, but coffee leaf rust was a deathblow, and we
could not get either bean at any price. Fortunately the extra 30
years of cupping and blending experience paid off, and I was able to
recreate the blend using different beans from the same origins. We
haven't received any offers of Maragogypes this year either, so it
appears that farmers have simply abandoned the varietal and
replanted hardier Arabica types.

There will be a few other changes to our coffees as this year's new
crops arrive. Current crop Café de Cuba has replaced Cuba
Caracolillo, and we have a new organic coffee to replace Organic
Timor Maubesse, which again is not available this year.

Organic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe

This is a smooth, creamy coffee with mild front palate acidity,
medium body and a fruit and chocolate finish. It also ticks all the
boxes, being both organic and fair trade approved. It's not a
"special" because we should have it for the next year.

We've still got a little bit of green Timor left, but I'd expect the
Yirgacheffe to take its place on the list by next month at the

Until next month


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