Culinary Coffee: The Seasonal Espresso Blend

8 Feb

This is the first part of an extended series of inquires into how and why coffee can be culinary.
You will be able to track everything via its category Culinary Coffee.

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Cooking seasonally is important, and it has been for a very long time.  This is especially important in high end restaurants, who can change their menus anywhere from 2 to 4 times a year. On top of this, if you have ever read any sort of cookbook that goes beyond simple recipes, seasonality is also important.

I am not trying to suggest that everyone should be able to cook seasonally, however it is well documented that we are programmed to enjoy things seasonally. As a really simple example: a fresh citrusy salad in the summer; and conversely in the winter we drink porters and stout, as well as dining on the French classic potato leek soup.

Well, all that is excellent and widespread… BUT…
Why has it taken so long to translate seasonality to espresso?

Espresso is complex, we all know that. I just finished listening to the latest CoffeeGeek.com podcast where Mark interviewed James Hoffmann (who most of you internet folk know as “Jimseven“), and it’s got me thinking. Actually, I’m sure it has everyone thinking. In a nutshell, they summarized what [they felt] were the milestones of 2010. At the very end, they left seasonal espresso open for discussion.

Unconsciously, we all see the Christmas blends come and go (which may or may not do justice), but until recently the seasonal espresso hasn’t existed. However, it’s easy for anyone to predict this exploding in 2011.

Here at Coffee Folk, I have my eye on numerous espressos and roasters now, simply for the reason they offer seasonal blends. On top of this, they are highly recommended by others in the industry. I know for a fact I’ll be sampling both seasonal blend’s from Barefoot Coffee, as well as Alchemy from George Howell (and that’s just off the top of my head). I know I am very excited about the possibilities of this, but I’m also cautious about it’s dangers and misuse.

Just another way to take your coffee experience to another level?
Will this become a gimmick that lower end roasters use to boost sales?

Where do you stand on seasonal espresso blends, and where is it going for 2011?

Leave it in the comments.
Cheers,

– Matt

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5 Responses to “Culinary Coffee: The Seasonal Espresso Blend”

  1. JAVa Jen February 8, 2011 at 10:49 pm #

    As it is harvest season right now at coffee farms, and we are wanting to drink the freshest coffee beans, it makes sense to drink coffee seasonally. The main coffee experience that could go to another level would be limited availability of microlots. If you want limited high quality coffee beans, you have buy fast. Otherwise you have to wait till next year.

    Unfortunately, you’re right about companies using this as a gimmick for sales at low quality roasters.

    All the more reason to educate coffee enthusiasts, yes?

    • MattCReynolds February 9, 2011 at 12:33 am #

      Actually Jen, I was referring more towards seasonal blends (particularly espresso) like a ‘winter blend’ or a ‘summer’ blend. This would be like a brewery making a citrus beer in the summer, and a porter in the winter.

      You do raise an interesting point Jen.
      HOWEVER, I do need to clarify that harvest times vary depending on the region. I’d like to refer folks towards Sweet Maria’s to check out the chart on approximate harvest time: http://www.sweetmarias.com/coffee.prod.timetable.php

      I’m curious as to how you feel about the subject now, as well as others.

  2. Jamie February 9, 2011 at 2:54 pm #

    Matt,

    I never thought of these seasonal blends becoming misused. I have however noticed that in the last year its popularity has grown rapidly.

    I believe it’s another way to take our coffee experience to another level but at the same time I really think at the rate it’s catching on I am sure we will see more lower end roasters trying to use seasonal blends to boost their sales.

    I am for seasonal blends. I think It’s a genius idea. I’ve had some blends that I believed could benefit more by sticking around all year but I’ve come to realize that these coffee roasters aren’t worried about bringing in extra money but instead offering a wonderful blend that you have to wait every year for.

  3. Marc February 14, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    I’m with JavaJen on this one, sorry for that. No real opinion on seasonal blends, ’cause I’m mainly pulling single origins. But my local roaster (www.caffenation.blogspot.com) (@caffenation on Twitter) got me onto freshness in greens. I’d been having some trouble with woody flavors in my roasts. Turned out the beans I was using at the time were just plain old. Never really considered the freshness of the bean prior to roasting, thought anything would to the trick. NOT!
    Keep it fresh folks!

    Marc @Berringe

    • MattCReynolds February 14, 2011 at 11:08 am #

      Thanks Marc.
      Single Origin espresso is a whole other beast, and controversial in its own way. Most pro roasters use a combination of roast levels in a single origin espresso to help balance it out. I think I’ll have to create another enquiry, this time into s-o espresso.
      Personally, I blend even my green coffee that I roast for espresso. I am completely for complexity in espresso (and it’s a complex brew method which is hard on s-o).
      However, that doesn’t mean I’ll turn down a single origin espresso, because I find them intriguing. I’ve had a couple of really good ones, and the 49th parallel costa rica single origin comes to mind!
      Cheers,
      -Matt

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