Steve Leighton and his wife Sarah Leighton are proprietors of a successful internet-based coffee roasting and home-roasting products business Has Bean based in the UK. They started the business to fill the gap that existed in the specialty coffee market in the Staffordshire area. Steve talks to us here about the inside scoop on regular coffee.
A common practice is to blend coffees to produce a more complex taste than a single origin can provide on its own. A roaster will often have signature blends, normally at least one for espresso and one for the filter machine or French Press. These blends use the roaster’s knowledge to produce a more rounded cup to suit a specific purpose or occasion. Do not be afraid to try blending yourself once you have an understanding of a region’s coffee. It can be very rewarding and an easy introduction to the world of specialty coffee.
Beware: blending can also be used to make a quality bean go further. An example of this can be found with Jamaican Blue Mountain. This is a very expensive coffee on its own, but blended with cheaper beans it can be sold for a lower price. Often the result is called something like Jamaica Blue Mountain Blend.
Kona Style is another example of this approach. These should be avoided, as they rarely provide the drinker with a quality cup. They are not really specialty coffee. It is important to make sure that you buy blends that do not borrow from the name of a famous or expensive coffee in order to add perceived cachet. This avoids confusion and allows the customer to have confidence in what they are buying.
The roasting process has a massive bearing on the final quality of the cup. The highest quality coffee will taste poor if over- or under-roasted. Most coffee roasters when offering you a particular bean will tell you the degree of roast that they have employed or recommend. When roasting for one’s self it is best to follow the roaster’s guide as they again are using their knowledge of the bean to tell you how this bean is best presented. Delicate coffees normally prefer a light to medium roast, so their flavours don’t get lost in an over-roasted taste. A more full bodied coffee with strong flavours will be enhanced by a darker (Full City or perhaps even Vienna) roast. Don’t be afraid to try coffees that you think you wouldn’t normally like. Even though you like full bodied after dinner drinks, a delicate Kenyan or Costa Rican may open your eyes to a whole new world of coffee flavours.