What Is Single Origin Coffee?


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When choosing the right coffee beans, it’s best to check the label if it has details and information that include altitude, processing method, and origin.

But what does it really mean if my coffee is single-origin? And what’s the significance behind that label?

Single-origin is just all about the information behind the coffee you drink every day. The most important about it is its traceability. Once your beans can be traced back, that will speak a lot about your coffee’s quality and story.

In this article, we’ll further elaborate on the things you need to know about single origin coffee.

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What is Single-origin Coffee?

Single-origin refers to a certain location where a special type of coffee beans is uniquely found. Think of it as a specific region or farm in a particular country where all the coffee is grown, harvested, and processed.

Not all coffees are the same in terms of geographical location. Almost all of the coffees around the world taste differently from each other. The cup of coffee made with beans of one variety planted in your backyard for centuries will be different from the coffee grown in other countries.

The word “origin” has a broad definition. The coffee label may just focus on a particular coffee’s cupping notes to highlight the origin. But in this case, let’s say the label must also imply these three basic locations:

Single Farm

It means that coffee is sourced from a single specific farm or community. 

One example is a family-owned farm that produces a single variety of coffee. This setting is where a coffee shines’ uniqueness and exoticness due to being exclusive to only one distinct location. It is also a good thing about single or smaller farms, where exclusivity and authenticity are easily verified.

Producers generally take the coffee’s name after the community or farm that produces the beans. The coffee label may include the estate name, specific lot or paddock the coffee was grown, and specific varietal from the farm (often referred to as a microlot).

Multiple Farms

The coffee is produced by multiple farms but in the same area.

One example is a single roaster or retailer that curates the same type of coffee from different farms. You may think that it’s a blend, but it’s not. Since all of the farms are located in the same area, they’re only contributing to enough beans’ availability.

In our case, we all still produce the same high-quality Arabica beans despite that we are comprised of several farms. That is because all the farms are located in the same region, and that region can only grow a specific coffee varietal.

What I like the most about this is every single farm has a story to tell. Even though this is considered several farms that produce the same coffee in the same area, producers still prefer to highlight an individual coffee’s specific story.

Entire Country

This thing is more like a coffee identity represented by a country.  

It is frequently simplified to a unique coffee from any farms or producers located in one country. Examples are Guatemalan coffee, Brazilian coffee, and so on. The coffee is also named after the country where the beans were grown.

However, those are only the basic things you need to know about single origins. Whereas the unique characteristic of the location (soil condition, area, etc.) and the traceability of beans are the essential factors that define a single-origin coffee. 

What Does Single Origin Taste Like?

The taste profile of single origins may vary with occasional conditions. Sometimes it’s all down to the coffee’s identity. It means it depends on where it came from as coffee differs from country to country.

For example, Brazilian coffees offer deeper, darker, and sweeter flavor, while naturally processed Ethiopian coffees provide vibrant fruity flavors and aromas. Again, no two coffees taste the same.

However, single-origin coffees have their distinguishable taste—those unique, authentic, and exclusive tastes that are rarely sampled by the consumers. You can quickly determine a single-origin coffee if it serves a sharp but clean flavor in a cup.

Those pure flavors, aroma, and acids are often more pronounced, creating a bold, exotic, and robust coffee.

Single Origin Vs. Blend Coffee

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If you consider picking beans from a preferred single-origin farm, then you’ll likely be getting a high-quality coffee due to its unique flavor. Additionally, you can experience each of the unique characteristics and exclusive coffee flavors of different origins around the world.

  • Single-origin coffees are best when consumed without milk. You can taste the original and uniform flavor profile of a whole bean.
  • That is where the term “origin” is all about. The coffee flavor represents the place where it came from, or the beans’ unique characteristics highlight their origins.

However, that’s also the problem when it comes to this coffee. Since it’s pure, unique, and exotic, you can’t cover its imperfection and inconsistency once not handled and processed correctly. If you’re just going to add other types of coffee bean sourced from another country to hide its ruined taste, then that’s already a blend.

On the other hand, speaking of blend coffee, it is composed of several single origins to provide a great combination.

  • Blends are often made up of beans from different specific countries (Ethiopian, Guatemalan, Brazilian). And sometimes they are composed of coffees from different varieties (Arabica and Robusta).

Generally, blends usually have a heavier body and have been carefully selected to offer a more complex and balanced coffee flavor. Like for example, espresso or milk coffee. Furthermore, this coffee is pleasant due to the combination of multiple single-origin beans.

So, wrapping it up! If you want to experience a classical bean’s original taste and composition, go for a single-origin coffee. But if you want your cup to highlight mouthfeel or body, then choose blend coffee. 

What Makes a Single Origin Coffee Special?

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As highlighted before, several factors contribute to a particular bean’s over-all physical and flavor development. One of them is the coffee’s origin.

But in this case, the question is, what makes it so important? And in particular, what makes the coffee so special if labeled single origin?   

Detailed Information Behind

The good thing about single-origin coffee is the detailed information you can obtain about the bean’s particular source and farming practices.

It’s also great to appreciate all the hard work behind a specific coffee. Behind those cups of coffee that you brew every day, farmers and producers put passion, dedication, and love into their production.

So, you do not just know where your coffee is from, but you’re also gaining more knowledge and details about it. Having that insight, you can quickly determine that your coffee is a specific one, not a blend. In the end, you become more appreciative of those wild single-origin coffees.

Farmers Care About Their Coffee

They always say that “the best coffee comes from a single source only.” That is true! Indeed, even small coffee farms should take pride in the quality of their own coffee. 

Producing the best quality beans starts from everything that farmers and producers do. Farmers that are so focused on specialty and single origins are what makes the coffee so special.

Besides, we should consider how the beans from the tree are well taken care of and how organized producers and farmers are in their work. 

So, we can really say that the best single-origin coffee comes from them. That is because they care so much on providing the best result to make us enjoy our cups as thoughtfully as it was handled, processed, and prepared. Because in the end, that thing translates to (us) consumers.

Furthermore, single-origin coffee represents its origin when it comes to either taste profile or farming practices. To preserve the product’s quality, farmers make extra efforts to guarantee sustainability and ethical farming in the industry.

Traceability of Beans

Nowadays, you can already tell the quality of a particular coffee by just knowing the country to where it came from or due to its traceability.

As mentioned before, traceability is what defines single-origin coffee.

Let’s take a look at your favorite shoes, for example. Maybe it’s you’re favorite probably because of the detailed information behind it.

Tracing back your shoes is what matters to know a lot about the product’s quality (manufacturer, used materials, origin, etc.). That’s where the word “original” falls in. Aside from the traits, you know that it’s authentic. It came from a reputable brand located in a country where it was first established.

When it comes to coffee, the same thing happens behind. The traceability of a particular bean is an essential factor to perceive better quality coffees.

Most coffee enthusiasts and professionals tend to buy it from a single farm because of transparency. Being transparent is also one of the reasons for its increasing popularity.

Increasing Popularity

Speaking of popularity, single origins dominate it than blend ones. The increasing interest in this coffee has been influenced mostly by specialty cafés offering various seasonally single sources that taste different. Also, alternative brew methods such as AeroPress, pour-over, or French Press account for it.

Single-origin coffees are ideal for these kinds of brewing methods as you can taste and compare the unique characteristics of coffees from different parts of the world.

However, there are a lot of things that contribute to single origins popularity. It may be because the beans offer a unique and exotic experience that many people want to delve into, or because it’s just simply a good coffee.

Is Single Origin Coffee Better?

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If compared to a blend, a single origin coffee is better. However, we’ve mentioned that the word “origin” refers to multiple locations and farm practices. So it may depend.

It’s important to recognize how the coffees are produced to perceive its effect on the quality. You need to know what’s going on at origin.

The more specific you delve into it, the more experience and knowledge you may get. So, here are the several reasons why single origin coffee is better.

Focused and Narrowed Coffee Production

In today’s market, the specialty coffee industry acknowledges small coffee farms from a particular country cultivating a limited area.

The thing is that farmers or growers can easily control the beans’ aspect to provide a much better quality if it’s from a single farm or variety.

Simultaneously, the beans are carefully handled and produced due to the minimal workforce on production and processing. Therefore, there is a higher chance that they’re probably providing high-quality coffees.

However, this quality doesn’t come cheap since small coffee farms are focused on limited supplies. Due to the increasing popularity and demand of single-origin coffees, roasters pay more for superior beans to secure the best quality single-origin beans possible.

Implementing Direct Trade

The relationship and communication between roasters and farmers play the most crucial role in obtaining a higher-quality single-origin coffee.

Again, as highlighted above, most consumers will look for guidance about their coffee. But of course, you need to provide helpful information that highlights your beans’ good quality in as much detail as possible. But to present it, you should somewhat create a bridge between yourself and producers to learn more essential things.

Here’s an example. Back in the day, our small coffee community doesn’t have enough knowledge about cultivating coffee beans. Our farmers are only limited to, let’s say, necessary awareness. I can say that the quality of our beans degrades due to our improper processing and farming practices.

That only changed when a company helped us improve our practices in farming and processing. They have provided us equipment and wealthy knowledge about coffee cultivation that increased our efficiency and productivity.  Read the story behind a locally produced coffee in the Philippines.

So, direct trade is very significant for the pursuit of higher-quality coffee. Having a closer eye and first-hand experience by both producers and farmers will impact the aspect of the crops.

This thing is a win-win situation where everyone benefits. Roasters or producers can learn from farmers to showcase their single-origin coffees. While on the other hand, farmers can learn from producers to increase the quality of their beans.

Excellent Climate Conditions at Origin

Another reason is the coffee’s characteristics fixed to their geographical conditions. Sometimes the coffee’s distinct flavor is based on the area where it was cultivated or based on that region’s growing conditions.

Single-origin coffee is usually a higher quality due to the several factors created by that single place. It means that the farm’s characteristics provide unique settings such as improved soil, excellent climate, altitude, and so on that influences the final bean’s flavor.

As always mentioned, describing the coffee’s source (the farm, climate, variety, processing, and so on) gives a fair evaluation of the coffee by the industry’s quality.

How to Roast Single Origin Coffees?

Coffee roasting is the process of developing the aroma compounds of the beans. But the bean itself has an ideal best roast profile. We’ve said that coffee differs from country to country, and we need to treat each origin country differently. 

To bring out the natural sweetness and flavors that each single-origin coffee has, it’s typical to roast the beans lighter to highlight the flavors inherent to the bean’s origin rather than the roast. 

There’s a big difference between light roast and dark roast coffee when it comes to flavor profile. However, light roast coffee can bring more flourishing and unique flavors to the taste. The good thing about this roast is it merely highlights the coffee’s unique characteristics and, of course, maintains its originality.

In the end, that’s probably the main reason most roasters or brewers prefer single-origin coffees lighter in their roast.

Conclusion

There you have it! Again, remember that there’s a broad definition for the term “origin.” It may have a more specific meaning than others, or it can be defined in different and several ways, as highlighted above. 

As for consumers, single-origin coffee gives you the knowledge to choose the best coffee that suits your needs. Besides, understanding what “Single Origin” really means can actually make you more appreciative of your coffee. 

And having that said, I hope this explains even a tiny but rich detail on what makes single-origin coffee so special. 

Like this Article? You Might Also Want to Read: What is Specialty Coffee? (A Definitive Guide)