Bold and sweet espresso, smooth latte, full-bodied filter: we’re talking about our signature espresso blend, Revelation. As we celebrate our 20th Anniversary, we take a look at the coffee which has been part of the Union story from day one.
The Revelation recipe dates back to before Union was founded in 2001. Over time, it’s been subtly adjusted in keeping with the changing styles and preferences of coffee drinkers, but always retaining the classic bold yet sweet profile and layered flavour experience.
Our founders, Jeremy and Steven, developed our Revelation recipe and roast profile and what better way to celebrate it than to sit them down for a Q&A. Have a read and discover exactly how Revelation came to be and learn a few secrets behind one of our most popular coffees…
1. What was the idea behind creating Revelation?
Steven: We first developed Revelation, or TM Espresso as it was called in those days, in 1994. The first of the third wave cafes were opening up, the coffee chains we know today and the average size of the coffees sold were 12 oz. or 16 oz. large. When we set out to create our espresso blend, it was about having enough heft behind the flavour of the coffee to stand out in those sort of size drinks.
Jeremy: We were also working with a lot of restaurants serving straight espresso. So, the idea behind our first espresso blend was that it should have sweetness, it should be smooth on the palate but still bold enough to come through that milk.
We were roasting a dark profile but wanted it to be distinguishable from the other coffees available. We had the dark roast style, but we wanted cleaner, sweeter, rounder flavours.
It was quite a challenging style of espresso to produce!
2. What was the process behind creating Revelation?
Jeremy: Putting a blend together, whether espresso or filter, you’re trying to find complementary and harmonising flavours, ones that work well with each other not just in that moment, but sequentially. I think a good espresso should always have a beginning, a middle and an end. The all over the palate, progressive experience is what we wanted Revelation to offer.
Steven: As with all coffee and creating blends, it’s about getting to know the characteristics you get from different origins and processing methods.
We’d spent everything we had on a roaster, bags of coffee, benches and a professional grinder and then we realised we didn’t have an espresso machine. We took to the second hand pages of the paper (today it would be Gumtree or Ebay!) and found a £20 Home Gaggia machine.
Jeremy: First, we’d roast a selection of single origin coffees to a reasonable degree of development (a point where we would be able to compare), then brew using the espresso machine and start mixing with a spoon to see how it behaved. It was a progressive series of tests and tweaks and tastes to get to the target we had in mind. It’s a very iterative and time consuming process, there’s a limit to the number of espresso shots you can taste in one day, without feeling too sick!
3. How has Revelation changed over the years?
Jeremy: Revelation has slightly changed over time due to a number of reasons, I think the changes come from three different directions.
First, the quality of coffees we’re working with today. The delicacy of flavour and the quality of coffee overall is a lot better, which of course greatly impacts the overall profile of Revelation.
Second, the way people drink their coffee has changed, which is something we had to consider over time. Where coffee drinkers once have had a 12 oz. coffee, today they’ll have something a lot smaller or with less milk, or even just filter. This has encouraged roasters to re-evaluate how “robust” or intense their espresso needs to be. Revelation was first created to be able to cut through large volumes of milk, which is no longer the case to the same extent, so we’ve tweaked and refined it because of this.
Third, the general style of coffee is different, people have different preferences in the profile of coffee they’re drinking. People's preferences have become more delicate, more developed and more balanced flavours. Revelation has gotten lighter in roast over the years, which has allowed us to keep the sweetness but drive more brightness and complexity of flavour.
Steven: The coffees used in Revelation have changed slightly over the years but it’s still anchored by Costa Rica and Guatemala. In the early days, we used a lot of Kenya AA coffees - they were quite expensive to use in blends but they worked well. But implementing Union Direct Trade in our sourcing from Kenya was difficult, especially achieving financial transparency for farmers and workers. Our partnership with Maraba in Rwanda became integral to Revelation when we realised that their great coffee worked even better than Kenya AA - boosting the chocolate notes on the mid palate, preserving the round sweetness on the front of the cup which balanced nicely with Guatemala coffees.
Revelation creates rippling waves of flavour that you desire from an espresso, yet however you brew, it continues to taste delicious. As Jeremy mentioned, over the years we’ve refined the profile in line with changing flavour preferences from our fans.
4. Revelation is our bestseller. What do you think has made it so popular over the past 20 years and into today?
Steven: Its versatility makes it very popular. It presents a range of different approaches for people, almost whichever way you brew it you get a great cup of coffee. However you brew it - espresso, cafetiere, filter - Revelation is a balanced blend which makes a wonderfully full-bodied cup. I still enjoy brewing it from a cafetiere!
Jeremy: It also holds quite an important place in a lot of people’s hearts. Revelation is a popular blend in a lot of cafes and restaurants and for a lot of people, it’s one of the first speciality coffees they try and love - then keep coming back for more. It’s seed very well into people’s appreciation!
5. What does Revelation mean to you?
Jeremy: For me, it reflects a journey and the joy of discovery, the continual learning over our career in coffee. It’s been a loyal companion in slightly different guises along the way: as TM Espresso back in the Torz & Macatonia Coffee Roaster days, its incarnation as Revelation at Union, and coming up now it’s the inspiration for our 20th Anniversary blend, Evolution. It shows that the journey is ongoing.
Steven: I like to think of Revelation as the personality of Union. Although we created Revelation from a humble beginning, we were driven by curiosity, liberation and this has enabled us to continue our everlasting pursuit for some of the most extraordinary coffees in the world.
6. How would you describe Revelation in three words?
Steven - it will always remind me of him as we created it together it was the very start of our journey.
Travel - The different countries we’ve visited, meeting the amazing communities who are the reasons why we do what we do.
Home - It just reminds me of everything we do together, keeping me centred and grounded. Revelation feels a comfortable place to be.
Steven: Three words is difficult, for me, Revelation highlights why we first became interested in coffee- and the discovery of creativity in coffee. We learned how we could craft coffees to produce flavours that gives us a huge amount of pleasure and enjoyment.