What’s a boutique espresso? How about a coffee designed for espresso brewing produced by a very small roasting company for local customers ranging from neighbors to nearby cafes and kiosks.
Most espressos consumed in the world today consist of blends of various green coffees. The justification for presenting only blended coffees as espresso is the premise that the intense, concentrated nature of the espresso brewing method so exaggerates the idiosyncrasies of individual coffees that only a blend of various coffees can provide the requisite balance of syrupy body and complex but understated aromatics.
However, many of us have been feeling for some years now that the only-blends-for-espresso premise is overstated, if not flat-out wrong, and that the finest coffees from single origins, sourced and roasted with tact and intelligence, can produce superb espresso.
Everyone seems to have caught on that naturally sweet, low-acid coffees brought to medium to medium-dark roasts produce smoother-bodied, more aromatically complex espressos than acidy coffees brought to an aggressive dark roast. However, the range of style and expression in these blends continues to expand as roasters wean themselves from routine reliance on Sumatras, Brazils and wet-processed Latin American coffees as the mainstays of their blends. I tasted monsooned coffees from India, wet-processed robustas (probably also from India) and dry-processed Ethiopia coffees in these blends as well as the more familiar dry-processed Brazils, low-acid wet-processed Latin American coffees and traditionally processed Sumatras.
In many respects, the new Belle Espresso blend from Coffee Klatch (94) typifies these new blends, with coffees from five different origins stretching the sensory range in a balanced but complex matrix. On the other hand, some impressive blends are themed blends with a focus on certain coffee profiles; Novo Coffee’s impressive Tawar Rouge, for example, and Stone Cup’s Full Natural Blend make use of sweetly fermented Ethiopia dry-processed coffees to help achieve an exotic brandy-toned character.