Tales from the Roastery / Vol. 1 / Holiday Blend
It’s finally cold in Central Texas, and like everything in the Lone Star State, we go BIG when we go cold. Why do autumn when you can go straight to winter?! Mid to high 80’s, with our ever present friend humidity, to a high of 41 degrees the next day. With this weather and time of year, it's time to start constructing our Holiday blend. Our brain-trust gathered in Dripping Springs all bundled up and ready to interact with anything warm to cup through some blend options I was tinkering with. When I say tinkering, as a roaster I mean to pair coffees together to not only taste, but to evoke the feeling of the Holidays. For me, that latter part is the fun bit. Intentionality is everything and with Hill Country Holiday, I want that taste and feeling to come through in the bag. So, in the spirit of the Holidays, we will take a page from Charles Dickens and welcome the Ghost of Holiday Blends Past to get in the Holiday spirit for this year's blend.
In my coffee adolescence, starting in the early aughts, the Holiday blend was an afterthought as well as an opportunity. Holiday blends were notoriously just a roaster's oldest coffee in their warehouse. Roasted to a point even Dante would be nervous to go, blended together, and presented in a sparkling, tinsel adorned packaging to the unsuspecting masses. They were bad, to say the least, and most likely were left sealed until the next Holiday season when they were promptly put in a family member's trash to make room for the next one. I remember distinctly when I was young, my mom had a shiny red bag on display from a very popular roaster in America (that will remain nameless) just as decoration! Even my mother would not subject her ancient, filthy percolator to this Holiday monstrosity. Only what was on the outside packaging mattered to anyone at all. No origin details, no flavor notes, just some Christmas trees and candy canes on the bag.
When specialty coffee really started to take off, blends became unpopular with the rise of single producer, micro-lot single origin coffees. Coffee however, like most things, is cyclical. Now Holiday blends can exist and be appealing if they are done with the care in roasting, quality control and sourcing, that we love to do with everything else. So, it’s with that mindset we gathered around our family cupping table - vague holiday jazz music in the background to try some combinations.
I knew from the onset that a major component would be our freshly landed Bishan Dimo from Ethiopia (for our loyal fans, this is a recognizable name. You’ll be hearing more soon!). Khanh and I are big fans of this coffee when it’s gone a little further in the roast than we would normally do with Ethiopian coffees. Bishan Dimo is an incredibly sweet coffee. Vanilla bean, white florality, and some honey with a longer roast. No brainer, right? The only question I had on my mind was what to pair it with. We tried a coffee from Guatemala (good but not holiday evocative), Costa Rica (great, but the flavor was maybe too sweet), and finally a Kenya that had just showed up to the roastery that we weren’t planning on releasing quite yet and certainly not in a blend.
Reasons for that are two-fold. One, two east African coffees can be on the pricey side, the other, Kenyan coffees don’t usually play well with other coffees in a blend setting. Kenya's typically have a huge, complex, divisive flavor in the cup. Sometimes stewed tomatoes, sometimes grapefruit, sometimes black currant, sometimes all these things at once. It’s a real wild card in the coffee world. However, I was feeling a bit mischievous and decided to throw it on the table. A peaberry from Kirinyaga county, the mighty Rung’eto, with notes of golden apple, black treacle (it’s a thing), and red currant jam. Obviously, it won the blind taste test or I wouldn’t be gushing about this coffee. It really blew our minds and put us in that cloudy, crisp, warm-inside, holiday feeling. The blend also had the taste! Mulled cider, dried apricot, vanilla bean. The coffee tastes and feels nostalgic, with not one, but two freshly landed coffees.
Click here to order your bag today to be transported in taste and feeling to our family cupping table in the great Hill Country!
Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays,