Gourmet Coffee

Written by Sarah Provost
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Call it gourmet coffee, specialty coffee, estate coffee or what you will, but once you've tried freshly roasted and properly brewed varietal beans, you'll call it delicious. If you're just beginning to move away from the supermarket cans, you might find the long lists of names confusing. Names for gourmet coffee can refer to its place of origin, the degree to which it is roasted, a particular blend of different coffees, or an added flavor.

If the name of the coffee is European, i.e., Vienna, Italian, or French, it refers to the darkness of the roast. The three mentioned are in order of increasing darkness. Non-European names, such as Sumatra, Guatemala, or Kenya, refer to the place of origin and may be modified by regional names such as Harrar or by grades such as AA.

Since the 1980s, some gourmet coffees have been using estate or grower names, in the same way that wines are labeled by estates. Estate coffees tend to be superior and more consistent versions of the coffee grown in the larger region. An estate name by itself is no guarantee of superior coffee, though, so roasters and consumers should be wary of hype.

Blends of Gourmet Coffee

There are two primary reasons for blending coffees. One is concerned with economics, the other with flavor. Many of the classic blends such as Mocha Java were created because the two types of coffee have characteristics that complement each other and produce a cup that is superior to either one alone. Other blends may combine ordinary beans with a very expensive gourmet coffee such as Blue Mountain to create a less expensive Blue Mountain Blend. There may in fact be no real Blue Mountain in it, in which case it is called Blue Mountain Style.

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