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Coffee Blends: What To Know

Coffee Blends: What To Know

We all know that coffee grows all around the world, and that each region boasts its own unique character. Colombian coffees are rich like a Burgundy wine, while Guatemalan roasts have a complex spiciness that's hard to resist. You have your sweet Hawaiian Konas, and your rich Costa Ricans, and your hazelnutty Chiapas that are perfect for drinking black.

But how can a roaster living in, say, Atlanta, make a cup of coffee unlike anything else in the world? That's where blends come in.

By combining coffees from various regions into a single batch, each blend becomes completely unique in flavor. And if you know what you're doing, your blend will highlight the most attractive qualities of its many parts. Here at San Francisco, we love our single-origins, but it's our blends that allow us to serve coffee that's truly one-of-a-kind.



Back in my Northern California days, I used to pass time sipping espresso in a coffeehouse called Graffeo's. To this day, the café is known for its unique blends, mixing beans from various sources to create flavors you can't find elsewhere. I quickly became addicted to the stuff, and was desperate to learn how it was made. What was this secret combination of beans that formed such an irresistible flavor? "No one knows," they used to tell me. The house blend was a well-kept secret.

A few years later, as Tanya and I opened our first coffeehouse in Atlanta, we knew we'd have to follow suit and create our own signature blend. And the special elixir came to us one night, thanks to our late friend John Martinez.



John was a coffee merchant and one of the first friends I made in Atlanta. J. Martinez & Company, the business that still bears his name, provided us with wholesale coffee from a variety of regions. "You'll have to invite me over some time," he said as we prepared to open our doors for customers. "I'll help you fill the bins!" (That's coffee-speak for loading your roasters with 20 pounds of beans).

And so, once I set-up my red-and-yellow Probat, John, Tanya, and I gathered around the roaster one night with a couple of beers, and got to work. But blending coffee is not organic chemistry. There is no perfect formula for an excellent blend. The truth is, finding that perfect combination is a matter of improvising. A little of this, a little of that. Add some sweetness here, temper the acidity there. Before you know it, you've got yourself a blend.

By the end of that night, we'd combined six different varietals to form the San Francisco Blend: our house flagship. What's inside the potion, you may ask? That's a secret I keep close to the chest. But I can tell you that it has a Guatemalan base, making it dark, smoky, and complex.


These days, we are proud to offer six different blends in addition to our single-origin coffees. Each has its own special profile, its own unique character. But if I had to choose a favorite, I'd probably pick Old Whaler’s Blend, another dark blend with a silky smooth body.

Still, different occasions call for different blends, and sometimes what scratches your itch in the morning is different than what does the trick in the afternoon. Each blend is precious in its own way, and still, we continue to play with our batches to deliver specialty blends. Keep an eye on the website for the latest, limited-time offerings.

-Doug Bond

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