If you’re a coffee lover, you’ve probably come across the term “single origin”. You may have seen it as you picked up a new pack of coffee you’re trying out, or perhaps your local café often has this witten behind the blackboard where the barista is whipping up new creation. But what does it mean, and should you care?
We’ll explain what it means in a moment and the answer to the second part of the question is – Absolutley! You should care! You should care because as a coffee lover, it is always great to understand all the flavors that are filling your cup.
Before we discuss the characteristics that define single origin coffee, it is first necessary to address "coffee blends." Most of the coffee beans we buy are not sourced from one location. They are often blends of coffee beans that have been sourced from different coffee plantations around the world to create a mix of beans, each with a unique flavor and aroma.
This blending of coffee beans doesn't just refer to blending beans from different countries. It also applies to the blending of coffee beans from different farms or regions within a country. Roasters blend coffee beans to infuse a variety of flavors into one cup of coffee. This blending often produces some of our favorite cups of coffee because of the combination of flavors that come alive in the blend.
Single Origin, Single Farm, and Single Estate
Although coffee blends are very popular and enjoyed by the coffee-loving community, roasters around the world have introduced the “single origin” coffee option. You might have also seen packets labeled "single farm" and even "single estate." This is where the confusion usually comes in as the terms can, at times, be misconstrued.
Single origin coffee usually refers to coffee that is sourced from one region, producer or crop within a country. Single farm and single estate, on the other hand, refer to coffee sourced from a single farm or co-operative.
The most important distinction from a blend and a single origin is the fact that with a single origin, you can identify the country, region, and sometimes even particular farm that the coffee beans are from, while with a blend, you can’t.
Coffee lovers have been raving about single origin in recent years because the coffee reflects the pure flavor of the beans unique to a specific area. It allows you to “taste the flavors” of a particular region or farm. Due to cultivation practices, climate, type of soil, and other factors that affect the taste of coffee beans, no two areas can produce the same coffee bean.
Single origin coffee beans, therefore, have unique characteristics and those characteristics are allowed to shine through and be appreciated. Some roasters have been known to even prefer certain roast styles for particular beans as this helps to accentuate flavors of that particular bean.
In many ways, one can argue that this can’t be a new concept because before countries began trading coffee, the farmers within those countries were already exposed to those single origin coffee beans. But globalization happened and international trading rapidly expanded. And soon, coffee blends were all that the global community was exposed to.
The Return of The Single Origin’s Popularity
Single origin’s coffee return to the mainstream market has been a recent occurrence. Although it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment in our history that one could say it moved mainstream, many agree that the recent development of specialty cafes has something to do with it. We're also at a time in our lives where we're continually trying to re-invent the coffee experience, and perhaps, the best way to do it is to pay homage to its origins.
Another notable cause of the movement of single origin coffee is the modern-day consumer being more conscious about the products he or she consumes. More than ever before, we’re seeing consumers asking questions about their products’ origins, how it was made, and if there were any pesticides involved in the production of the product.
Costs of Single Origin
Understandably, a person is more likely to spend more on a single origin coffee than a coffee blend. This is because single origins generally represent the pinnacle of character and quality in the coffee industry. It is what a "single vineyard" means to the wine industry, or what a "single malt" (whiskey that is blended from a particular producer) represents the Scotch-producing industry. They all represent and allude to sophistication in taste and quality, and therefore, consumers do not mind reaching deep in their pockets to satisfy their coffee cravings.
It is difficult to conclude which is better as each option has its unique advantages. Many people tend to prefer single origins over blends because a single origin can be described as a way to experience the imprint of a specific place. After having single origin coffee beans like the Tanzania single origin whole roasted coffee beans, one will encounter the fruity, bright, and exotic flavors of the east African country. While the South American and Central American single origins such as the Columbia single origin whole roasted coffee beans, Costa Rica single origin whole roasted coffee beans, and the Brazil single origin whole roasted coffee beans all give more delightful and mild flavors.
Ultimately, the consumer who is invested in spending their time and money on single origins is not necessarily a consumer who is too concerned about where the coffee beans are produced. Sure, that is important, but a coffee enthusiast will try Columbian single-origin, Costa Rican single-origin, Italian single-origin, as well as Tanzanian single-origin. This move to single origins is more about the consumer being tired of generic coffee.
As Americans, many of us consume coffee daily, and it has become a multi-billion-dollar industry. We're now used to the traditional coffee blends that are popularly found in some of our favorite coffee shops. We want something different. Something unexpected. Something unique. And something that will tell a little bit about the country it is from. We want coffee that is single origin. It might be slightly costlier, and we may not understand all the complexities of the flavors as we start, but the journey of following the different aromas and flavors is so worth it.