We hear the new buzz words today with the coffee revolution that is going on. "artisan roasted", "small batch", "mirco-lot farms", "custom blends". But, what does it really mean? Are roasters really turning out better coffee?
Well, yes and no. There are new roasting companies popping up all the time offering their "special blend". A lot of these blends are little more then a decent bean blended with a very low grade bean to save money and increase profits. Small roasters and larger wholesale or commercial retail locations do this to maintain profits and to keep a consistent taste for their customers (even if it lacks any resemblance to actual coffee).
Unfortunately, consumers have been conditioned to drink pretty crappy coffee and adding sweeteners to make it palatable is par for the course. I started working at a franchised coffee house back in the 90's and that's just how we did things. The coffee was burnt (because it was kept on the hot plate for too long, which basically starts to 'cook' the coffee), over roasted, and treated with chemicals (flavored coffee) in an attempt to make it taste good. And there was typically just one roast level.
Fast forward to 2022. Retail coffee chains are still doing the same thing (and for a good reason). The volume that these guys do is insane. If they stuck with a really good single origin coffee they would likely run out. Not to mention the small changes in taste from crop to crop may upset customers. And if they aren't actually roasting the coffee they can't profile it at different roast levels to make sure they are pull the best flavors out of the coffee. So blending just makes sense for them.
Fortunately, there are small roasters (and coffee houses that buy from small roasters) that do small volume and focus on high quality coffee. These are the 'artisan' roasters. They take the time to profile each lot of coffee that comes thru to ensure their customers are getting the very best out of each lot. They offer a variety off coffees from different origins and they are typically from the small farms that offer grade 1 beans. You may find a custom blend and sometimes that blend is pretty amazing.
So remember. If you're out and about and it's time for a little caffeine, take some time a locate a small local coffee house and skip the big franchises if you can.