Recently I got to visit that very coffee tasting room, which feels a bit like a cross between a lab and a kitchen with drawers filled with bean samples, multiple kettles, a roaster, espresso machine and timers. I was in the company of a barista and Doug Welsh, coffee buyer and VP of Coffee, who combines beans to create coffee blends at Peet's. At the most basic level blending comes down to three things, says Welsh: Acidity + Aroma + Body
Coffee tasting is also known as "coffee cupping" and it's not the same as just brewing coffee for drinking, in fact, like wine tasting, you spit rather than swallow the coffee. After visually examining the beans they roast the coffee very lightly so the true flavor of the coffee comes through and is not masked by the roasting, since roasting also adds flavor. After roasting and grinding, you smell the coffee grounds, then a few tablespoons of the grounds are placed in a glass and hot water is added. After a couple of minutes the crust of grounds is broken and you smell it again. The coffee is stirred, the foam removed with spoons and then you take a sip, aerating and slurping to get the most flavor. Finally you can spit the coffee out into a spittoon.
|Reviewing the beans, the barista preparing the coffee, coffee samples|
There are four varieties of beans in the 2013 Anniversary blend, I got a chance to try the beans from Columbia, Ethiopia and Java.
The Columbian beans lend acidity and have bright citrus notes, they comes from Palestina, from the South Central part of Caldas, Columbia.
Ethiopian beans make up 40% of the blend, and have very floral aromas. I also detected some spiciness in the Ethiopian.
The coffee from Java adds body, earthiness and sweetness, maybe even some caramel notes. It has a long finish. While many of the best coffees come from the Eastern part of Java, this coffee in particular came from the West, and has a profile more similar to Sumatra coffee, which is one of the most popular coffees Peet's sells.
The Peet's Philosophy
Do you prefer single varietals of grapes or blends? Single estate chocolate or blends? One really isn't necessarily better than the other.
Welsh explained that at Peet's they believe no coffee is "too good" to blend. They are not trying to cover up defects, but to create something truly unique and greater than the sum of the parts. In trying each component I was able to see how they all add to the final blend, making an even more complex but still harmonious coffee.
The Anniversary blend is seasonal and different each year, based on the supply of beans that they have, and will only be available for about six weeks so if you want to try it, get some soon. In grocery stores it is $9.99-11.99 per pound and $15.99 per pound in Peet's stores and online, with 5% going to a KIMSSA, to support the education of kids in Ethiopia.