Every year as the holiday season draws near, we eagerly look forward to cherished traditions and family celebrations. Over the years, 'Tis the Season, our annual holiday blend, has grown from an idea to a central part of our annual traditions.
This unique, once-a-year holiday blend is 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 OUR SHORT FILM ABOUT '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 holiday-focused flavor notes, such as baking spices, chocolate, and dried fruits, creating the perfect brew for family gatherings at year’s end. It is a rich and warming holiday blend that literally smells and tastes like festivals and cozy comforts in the deep of winter.
It is a rich and warming holiday blend that literally smells and tastes like festivals and cozy comforts in the deep of winter.
The ‘Tis the Season holiday blend is Kaldi’s Coffee’s annual update of the historical “mocha java” blend: an homage 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. At some point, an intrepid trader blended the beans from these two origins together to get the best of both worlds, and the legendary mocha java blend was born.
Each year, ‘Tis the Season holiday blend harkens back to that first documented coffee blend. We combine the earthy, spicy notes of a Sumatran coffee, which most closely resembles the classic “Java” component, with the fruit-forward flavors of a natural-processed Ethiopian. The flavor profile of the Ethiopian beans match the more acidic, wine-like profile original Mocha beans, while the Sumatran coffee's earth spices echo the original Java coffees. The blend of the coffees is then roasted to develop a rich, satifying 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, and propel the holiday blend to new heights of flavor and aroma year after year.
In this quest, we encounter many delicious Ethiopian naturals and earthy Sumatrans. The challenge is to find 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 chosen by September, and it’s always an event the first time our roasting team makes the first large roast for our team members to taste. 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 created a mocha java blend since at least 2006, but it was in 2013 that ‘Tis the Season as a holiday blend debuted. That year, and each year since, we have partnered with local St. Louis letterpress printers The Firecracker Press to create ‘Tis the Season’s beautiful, custom-designed packaging and every year we are incredibly impressed with the creativity and quality of their 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 Street. 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.
The packaging is handcrafted, intricate, and designed to feel like an already wrapped gift. We hope that whether it's given as a gift, received as one, or purchased as a treat for oneself, that 'Tis the Season is experienced not only as a coffee that's a joy to drink, but also as a crafted experience worth holding and beholding as well.
This leads to another tradition for us:
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!