New Crop, Traditional ‘Spro

Fine-tuning Zingerman’s Espresso Blend #1, Year After Year
Steve Mangigian, Managing Partner


Zingerman’s has been working with Daterra Estate for 15 years since the inception of the Coffee Company. Our partnership with Daterra is a testament to what the term “relationship coffee” is all about. From our days as a micro-roaster in the corner of the Zingerman’s Mail Order warehouse back in 2003, and through the sizeable growth we have seen since, our partnership has grown as we have grown. The strength of the relationship starts on the farm’s cupping table.

Every year, I trek down to the farm during the harvest season to select the varietals which make up our Espresso Blend #1 coffee.

It’s quite the journey to get to the there which includes a connection in the states as well as 2-3 connections in Brazil culminating in a three hour car ride to the farm. From my front door to the gate of the farm, it’s about an 24-28 hour trip, daunting to any seasoned traveler. But, WOW, is it worth it!

How I spend my time at the farm has often varied.  In past years, part of my time was spent touring the farm (which, is actually split into 3 farms, and from there 300 “mini” farms). Nowadays, virtually all of my time is spent in the Daterra cupping lab, experimenting with different blends. It starts with tasting every coffee the farm has harvested (sometime up to 30 varietals) then narrowing down “finalist” coffees that I feel are either tasting superior this year or get us to our desired mark of producing a traditional northern Italian style espresso. I then prepare individual coffees as shots of espresso and play with different coffees to blend to the outcome we are looking for.

Two young baristas smiling and holding espresso pitchers

In Brazil, coffee primarily is an export – historically there was no real culture behind it, but a barista culture catching on there as we have it here in the States.

Why go through all this year after year? Well, for one, it’s really fun.  Though, more importantly the Espresso Blend #1 is an important coffee for us, as it makes up 30% of our coffee sales! It’s crucial that we taste (“cup”) the individual varietals every year, as each harvest brings distinctive, and sometimes surprising, flavors for us to consider – and it’s our goal to make sure that the blend has a consistent profile, year after year. The result? We aim for an espresso that is syrupy, sweet, velvety, full-bodied, and a little nutty.

I’m more excited than I ever have been for this year’s blend, which will be comprised of 100 percent “natural” processed coffees, meaning the coffee cherries were dried whole, with the fruit still surrounding the bean. The blend hits our mark when brewed as an espresso, but it tastes exceptional as a brewed coffee, too. It has caramelly sweetness and notes of cocoa in the body.  Overall the brew is smooth, balanced, and lingers on the palate.

Next time you stop by the cafe, order an espresso (we serve ‘em with delicious & adorable espresso shortbread star cookies from our friends next door at the Zingerman’s Bakehouse!) and enjoy it as the Northern Italians do – standing at our bar-side table. For comparison, be sure to grab a bag of Espresso Blend #1 for home (we can grind the beans for you if you don’t have a coffee grinder at home). Let us know how you prefer it!

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