In this article, I will share everything I know about single origin coffee.
If you have walked into a popular café in the city lately, you might have noticed a banner or a label in the café menus reading ‘single origins.’
Now if you have no idea why certain beans are being touted as single-origin coffee, then read on as I discuss in detail how this need came to be and what exactly does single-origin coffee mean.
Let’s first define what the main phrase means:
What Does Single Origin Coffee Mean?
Simply put, single-origin coffee is the coffee that’s obtained from a single farm, producer, or region. Some labels go even a step further to include the name of the farm or estate from which the coffee beans or roasts have been sourced.
Coffee Bean origin makes it easy to trace the source of your coffee, right from the packaging. In an economy where consumers buy into a brand’s story and not just the product itself, knowing the origin of your roast or coffee bean gives consumers a course to support and assurance of the quality since they know how the crop itself is grown and processed.
Since the coffee itself carries the story and hence the flavor of the region in which it is grown, it becomes a great positioning from which the cafes can sell the coffee.
If you are picking your morning coffee from the shop on your way to work, then you may have to condone with regular espresso coffee since single-origin coffee roast preparation takes time, so you can’t just dash in quick, grab your serving and dash out.
Different Types of Single Origin Coffee
To fully understand the concept of single-origin beans, let’s break it further:
Single Region Coffee
These refer to the coffee beans sourced from the same region or same country. They are usually named by the country’s or region’s name, for instance, Colombian coffee.
However, the single-origin term is far too broad a category since the coffee doesn’t really carry the intended meaning behind the name. Larger countries see a great variation in conditions such as climate, soil type, and humidity, which, generally affect the flavors of the coffee.
Thus, further categorization into specific areas within the country is necessary to make the coffee more traceable.
Single Farm/ Single Cooperative Coffee
This is a narrower categorization and refers to those sourced from the same farm. With single farm coffee, it’s easy to trace aspects such as climate, farming traditions, operations, growing conditions, and processing methods under which, your berries are produced and processed for the market.
These types are scarce and therefore on-demand, as they are only available during the harvest season. This is partly why such coffee beans tend to be more expensive compared to the coffee blends of high quality.
Single cooperative coffee refers to coffee that comes from different farms within a specific region but those managed by the same cooperative thus there are still several similarities especially in the sourcing of seeds, growing practices, and processing methods, which tend to influence a unified taste of the final products.
If you are looking for even finer, more exclusive coffee, then micro-lot and nano-lot coffee is your best shot at going exclusive. These are coffees sourced from a particular lot within the farm, where the parameters are super-specific. Call this exclusive coffee.
What is the Difference Between Single Origin and Blends?
Blends are coffee beans sourced from different locations and are then processed together. Most coffees are of this type. Blends can come from different regions within the same geographical area for instance one country or even from different countries. They’re brewed with different coffee bean crops. Your blend can be a combination of one or two coffee varieties, while others consist of coffee from several locations.
You can also obtain a regional blend that uses different varieties but from the same region. For instance, the Northern Columbia coffee.
When blending coffee, roasters and green bean buyers aim at creating a unique but consistent taste. Knowing what coffee types to mix to make the perfect blends is a rare skill that requires dire knowledge of the different types of coffee from different regions. Combining the wrong types can result in coffee with an unpleasant taste, which can ruin your reputation if you’re offering this at a café or as a brand.
Single-origin coffees on the other end only use specific coffee crops, from a very specific region or farm. To further understand the differences between the two, let’s discuss them in terms of the parameters below:
Single-origin coffee is rare and only available during harvest seasons. Some roasters even book the coffee from the farm before they are ready for harvesting.
Blends combine different types and so they are available all year round.
Since single-origin beans are sourced from the same farm, it’s easier to track down where they are produced by simply reading their labels. They provide detailed information to the green bean buyers including:
- The farm or region where the beans were sourced from.
- People behind the coffee.
- Botanical conditions around the production area.
- Climatic conditions of the region.
- The growing processes involved.
- How the coffee was processed.
- The story behind the estate or the farm
Tracing blended coffee beans is almost impossible. Some blends combine between 8 and 12 different coffee types. Thus, the essential details above are not directly available to the consumers of the coffee bean blends.
There is no clear winner when it comes to the flavor here. Single-origin coffee roast seems to have the purest taste, unique characteristics, and more pronounced fruity flavors and is preferred by coffee roasters, connoisseurs, and coffee lovers.
Blended coffee offers a more variant, well-rounded drinking experience that enriches your brew.
Why is Single Origin Coffee Expensive?
Single-origin coffees are rare and on-demand, which means that the pricing of these types tends to be quite high. However, that’s not the only reason that makes this scarce commodity expensive.
Specialty coffees like these are often grown by small-scale farmers who follow strict production guidelines to achieve higher quality beans on harvesting. To make economic sense and receive returns for their investment, these beans have to be sold at higher pricing. These farmers have bought into the third-wave movement that seeks to recognize the link between the roots of the coffee and the final taste of the brew.
Also, most of these specialized farms are in the regions where they appreciate the fair remuneration of their workforce. Fair wages are thus factored in when pricing the beans. Since single-origin beans are picked and sorted by hand, green bean buyers are also indirectly supporting the human workforce by purchasing the coffee at premium pricing.
Another reason that makes this coffee type expensive is its positioning in the industry. For consumers who love exclusive brands, this is their go-to specialty in the industry. Besides, these types of consumers are also appreciating the third wave movement and the comfort that by subscribing to the premium coffee, they are supporting workers in particular locations, the workers whom they can track down and see how they are being treated at the farms.
Last but not least, people pay more for products of higher quality products. Single-origin coffees sell themselves because of their unique and more pronounced flavors that are hard to achieve with any coffee blend. The brew from single-origin coffee will always have a unique district taste.
Single-Origin Coffees and Specialty Coffee
Specialty coffee is a high-end type that has scored at least 80 out of 100 points according to the SCAA. The coffee critics grade beans based on the growing conditions, bean size, deformities, etc.
Most single-origin coffees are more likely to meet these conditions since the farmers always grow their crops observing strict guidelines when it comes to the use of fertilizers and chemicals.
Third Wave Mentality Around Single Origins
A few years ago, a cup of coffee was just that! A cup of coffee! Thus, many people didn’t appreciate nor acknowledge single-origin beans as such a need, or a reasonable extra expense. However, in the recent past, conversations around these coffees have spiked, increasing their demand globally.
The cultural shift has been enabled mainly by the third wave movement that advocates for uniqueness, exclusiveness, and authentic high-quality berries. This has enabled them to find their way into the mainstream market.
What is the Best Single Origin Coffee in the World?
There are different varieties to choose from, so if you are considering exploring the unique taste of the bean of single-origins, consider the specifics that you need and then do your research. Some of the best single-origin coffees from around the world include:
Several stories have been circulating stating that single-origin coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia. While there are no credible sources to back up the claim, Ethiopia is known to be the source of one of the world’s best coffee.
The selling story:
A story goes that coffee was first discovered in the country by a herder when he came across some of his goats acting strangely. The goats, he says, were dancing mildly. On observing keenly, he noticed that they had eaten the red berries. From there, the story divulges in two ways. One says that the herder who doubled up as a monk was happy to have discovered something that would help him to stay awake at night, while another story says that he was disapproving of the red berries and so he threw them into the fire, accidentally creating a pleasant aroma.
Benefits of Ethiopian Specialties.
Ethiopian coffee bean is known for its strong taste, unique characteristics, and heavy-bodied nature. If you love the crispy acidic taste that comes with even earthiness, then this is your treat. The crop is grown in high elevations which contributes to the acidity of the coffee. Since ideal coffee conditions already exist in this region, coffee farmers don’t have to use fertilizers or chemicals.
Examples of varieties in the region include:
- Yirgacheffe from the Sidamo area
- Harar, from Northeastern Ethiopia
- Limu, grown majorly in the Capital’s west.
Costa Rican Specialty Coffee.
Enter the country of the happiest people in the world, experience their brews, and you can bet that its high-quality beans play a part at least. The region is known to produce great coffee that always ranks highly. All coffee is arabica, as the production of any other variety is illegal.
The selling story:
The main selling point of Costa Rican coffee beans is its reputation as the single-origin destination of the highest quality in the world. The favorable tropical conditions and mountainous topography play a major role in the resulting fruity earthy taste of the coffee.
The highly consistent fruity tasty Arabica coffee is ideal for light, medium as well as dark roasts.
Hualalai Estate Coffee Beans
These single origins coffees are known for their flavorful Kona beans that have for many years now, established base and found favor in the Kona community.
The selling story:
Hualalai Estate Coffee started as merely a hobby for Joel Cooperson, a respected teacher in the Kona community in 1996. His love for Kona coffee grew only deeper with the establishment of his brand, earning him respect from both the retailers and farmers in the Kona community. Soon after, Hualalai Estate Coffee landed spots in the most coveted shelves of Kona Walmart and is now being shelved in all the major Wal-marts in the state and other retailers across.
Benefits of Hualalai Estate Coffee Beans
The region produces and distributes 100% Kona coffee, known for its full-bodied flavor and pleasant aroma contributed to by the cool slopes of the Hualalai and Mauna Loa Mountains. A Peaberry bean, in particular, contains a more concentrated flavor due to its unique formation process.
Is Single Origin Coffee Better?
Many coffee experts believe that the single-origin type is better because it’s a purer form compared to blends. The aroma and the fruity taste of single-origin coffees are often more pronounced than the blends.
Unless you are putting the blend together yourself, coming across good quality blends is a hustle. Some roasters intentionally mix coffee beans with lower quality just to skimp on the price. At the same time, you can come across some good blends that will taste just as good as the single origin.
Is Starbucks Coffee Single Origin?
Yes and no. Starbucks does serve single-origin coffee, but you have to ask for it specifically. Currently, Starbucks offers three distinctive single-origin beans sourced from Rwanda, Timor, and Guatemala.
In 2017, Starbucks also introduced new single-origin coffee series to its offerings including the Ethiopian Sidamo coffee. Depending on where you come from, there may be other varieties of single-origins available at your local Starbucks shop.
You’re now familiar with single-origin coffee and you don’t have to wonder anymore what that label in the coffee menus means. But regarding whether you should go for a single-origin roast is totally up to your preferences. There isn’t much difference between blends and single origin, you just have to go for the beans of the right quality.
The difference in the experience that you will get between the two is subtle especially if the blend is crafted by an experienced coffee expert. so just figure the taste that you want, and go for it.