The Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company is doing something different and allowing its customers to get very personal with their coffee – by allowing people to create their own customer coffee blends.
The idea came from the company creating custom blends for wineries and restaurants. When a corporate customer approached them with the idea of allowing customers to create and cup their own blends. Jamie Cherry and Jim Gunther thought this made for a great idea that their customers would enjoy. Charlie Sange, roastmaster for NVCRC who has been in the industry since the age of 13, says “People want to do something unique that celebrates food and wine in addition to wine tasting. People want to know more about what goes into their coffee. They are foodies and they know a lot about wine but they want to learn more about coffee.”
The company first offered coffee cupping to customer’s in 2008, and it typically takes 60 to 90 minutes. It begins with an intro into coffee, where customers see, smell, and feel coffee beans at different stages of roasting. GM, Doug Dunlap, says of the experience “You can start out with amazing green beans with great potential, whether it’s Fair trade, organic or regionally grown coffee. Yet, all of the flavors are developed in the roasting and brewing, and depend on the roasting temperature and period of time.”
The customers are then presented with a roasted blend to try. The blends could hail from the Americas, Africa, or Indonesia. Dunlap then states “What you taste is an immature roast. You taste all the highlighted flavors in each bean.” As the water temperature changes, Dunlap explains how different cup characteristics show. He also explains where the beans come from, and how 125 blends are offered by the company using only Arabica beans.
“The two most common cultivated trees in the world are Arabica and Robusta. Arabica beans are much more pleasant on the pallet. Robusta is less expensive and has twice the caffeine. We only use 100 percent Arabica beans.” says Sainge. He continues “While tree species are genetically the same in all three growing regions, coffee grown in each region has its own unique taste, influenced by “each region’s soil composition, rainfall and wildlife population [which] affects the taste of the coffee. They affect the way the fruit is grown. It’s the energy the tree has to pull from. All of the unique flavor characteristics come from the growing methods and how the fruit is processed.”
After monitoring and listening to tasters opinions on their favorite flavors, Sainge then mixes three different versions of roasts to try. Tasters then choose their favorite out of that and create their own custom blend. The customers are then given 12 oz. bags of their own coffee blends to take home, along with a French Press for optimal and easy brewing.
Dunlap speaks to why people enjoy this process by saying “I think people enjoy creating food at home, micro brewing, smoking meat and pickling. It’s fun to know you have created a blend, it’s the best.”