Every year as the holiday season draws near, we begin eagerly looking forward to fireplaces, cherished traditions, and family celebrations. A major part of our own traditions and celebrations is centered around 'Tis the Season, our annual holiday blend.
Our unique, once-a-year holiday blend beautifully packaged to bring warmth to chilly days, ‘Tis the Season has become a tradition in its own right for our customers and team members alike. Fantastic as drip coffee, decadent in a pour-over, and amazing as espresso (stop by one of our cafes and try it in a mocha!), its aroma and taste profile provide the quintessential holiday experience, all in one cup.
Here, we’ll talk a little more about the creation of this time-honored tradition.
WATCH ANDREW AND KIERSTEN TALK ABOUT 2021 'TIS THE SEASON ON YOUTUBE:
A NEW TAKE ON AN OLD BLEND
‘Tis the Season has a specific flavor profile that our coffee quality team aims for every year. ‘Tis targets a holiday-esque spree of flavor notes, such as baking spices, chocolate, and dried fruits, the perfect brew for traditional family gatherings at year’s end. It is a rich and warming holiday blend that literally smells and tastes like festivals and the joys of family and cozy comfort in the deep of winter.
It is a rich and warming holiday blend that literally smells and tastes like festivals and the joys of family and cozy comfort in the deep of winter.
The ‘Tis the Season holiday blend is also Kaldi’s Coffee’s annual riff on the historical “mocha java” blend: an ode to coffee’s early introduction to Europe via the Dutch. Commercial coffee of the 17th century arrived in Europe almost exclusively via the Dutch East India Trading Company, which imported beans from Mocha, or al-Makha, in Yemen, and from the Dutch-colonized island of Java in Indonesia. Eventually, someone tried blending the beans to get the best of both worlds, and the legendary mocha java was born.
Each year, ‘Tis the Season holiday blend harkens back to that first documented coffee blend, combining the earthy, spicy notes of a Sumatran — which most closely resembles the classic “Java” component and is typically from a smaller processor than the coffees now grown in modern Java — with the fruit-forward flavors of a natural-processed Ethiopian (from which all Yemen-grown coffees are originally derived, and which best matches the more acidic, wine-like profile original Mocha beans are believed to have had). These are then roasted to develop rich, welcoming sweetness.
A PROLIFIC EFFORT
To get this holiday blend right, and ensure the perfect winter festival sipping, we begin sourcing these coffees in the early summer, trying dozens of samples to find the perfect pairing. We work closely with our importers and our relationship suppliers to find coffees that can potentially live up to our expectations for ‘Tis, or even propel the holiday blend to new heights of flavor and aroma.
In this quest, we encounter many delicious Ethiopian naturals and rich, earthy Sumatrans — but guaranteeing that our ‘Tis will have those lush chocolate-and-spice, vanilla-and-jam flavor notes means finding not only two exceptional coffees that can stand up on their own, but a pair that complements one another just so. It’s also important to find coffees that will be available and fresh when we need them!
Usually the coffees are locked down by September, and it’s always an event the first time our roasting team makes the first large roast for our cafe barista teams to try. The first test brews are very special and one of those “it’s really the holiday season now, isn’t it?” kind of moments — the air quickly fills with that familiar aroma that tells everyone, “‘Tis is brewing!”.
The first test brews are very special and one of those “it’s really the holiday season now, isn’t it?” kind of moments - the air quickly fills with that familiar aroma that tells everyone, “‘Tis is brewing!”.
A SPECIAL COFFEE, A SPECIAL WRAP
Historically, Kaldi’s has done a mocha java blend since at least 2006, but it was in 2013 that ‘Tis the Season as a holiday blend truly debuted. That year, and ever since, we partnered with local St. Louis letterpress printers Firecracker Press to create ‘Tis the Season’s beautiful, custom-designed packaging, giving it that extra delightful holiday zest, making it a coffee that’s not only a joy to drink, but to hold and behold as well. This makes ‘Tis a popular choice for those looking to gift a friend or loved one with the best kind of holiday gift: one you can drink, of course!
This leads to another tradition for us: every year, we are incredibly impressed with the creativity and quality of Firecracker Press’s work. Firecracker Press was founded in St. Louis in 2002. For a few years, Kaldi’s Coffee and Firecracker Press shared a building on Washington Avenue in downtown St. Louis before Kaldi’s moved to midtown and Firecracker Press moved to Cherokee St. We rekindled our relationship in 2013 with the advent of ‘Tis the Season. Our designer at Kaldi’s knew that such a special coffee deserved a special package, so he reached out to Firecracker Press to design what was then going to be a one-off design and blend for the 2013 holiday season. A one-off turned into a massive success, and here we are, 8 years later, continually re-thinking what this blend is and what this blend looks like.
Each design has been drastically different from the ones that came before, but each has been as well-thought out as ever.
Over the course of those 9 years, we have featured everything from tickets that can be detached from the packaging and brought into the cafes for a free drink, to packaging that can unfold into a full poster, to a mug that matched the bag design. Each design has been drastically different from the ones that came before, but each has been as well-thought out as ever.
Year after year, Firecracker Press crafts a uniquely holiday package that perfectly encapsulates what we love about the coffee itself: the amount of care it receives at every step of the process, from planting the seed to brewing your cup.
Cheers to another year!