Welcome to SUNDAY Coffee, where each weekend we highlight the people, places and characteristics of craft coffee. Today we are talking about the term “single origin” coffee and what it really means.
Single Origin and Third Wave
One of our most viewed SUNDAY Coffee articles is The History of First, Second & Third Wave Coffee. In the article, we take a look at the changes that have come to the U.S. coffee market over the years. These changes are referred to as movements or “waves”. Today, third wave continues to grow as more coffee enthusiasts explore and experience specialty coffee.
One of the characteristics associated with third wave is “Single Origin” coffee. Single origin did not begin with third wave, (Single Origin History) but its popularity and marketability has made it a common talking point in the industry today. So what does it really mean and why is it so important?
Single Origin Is About Information
Answering this question is more difficult than you might think. The meaning of “single origin” can shift, depending on the individual being asked and even the context of the conversation. To add to the confusion, the definition just three years ago can be different from the definition used today.
Simply put, single origin is about information. Information about your coffee that identifies the geography or country where it originated. Different coffee growing regions produce different coffee tastes. When you know the origin of your coffee, you have an expectation of what that coffee’s characteristics and tastes will be. The coffee will then bear the name of that country or region. For example, if your drinking Ethiopian coffee, you know the beans came from Ethiopia, Colombian coffee from Columbia and so on. Seems elementary, right? Well, the importance is, it distinguishes the coffee from a “blend”, which can be coffee mixed from a variety of different sources.
However, this is a very broad definition of single origin and for many third wave coffee enthusiasts, this will just not do. One of the clearest explanations I’ve found for single origin comes from Mark Prince, the @CoffeeGeek himself, who states,
it is, simply put, one type of bean from one area of one farm (sometimes called a micro lot) roasted one way.
This very specific definition for single origin becomes microscopic in its transparency. Not only can you know the country where your coffee comes from, but the farm where it was harvested and the field or micro-lot where the trees grow. A micro-lot identifies a specific section of the coffee farm that produces better quality beans than other sections.
This is my favorite way to source coffee because it highlights the coffee as much as possible. When I purchase a coffee labeled as single origin, I get a chance to enjoy the specific tastes and characteristics of a coffee farm I’ll probably never visit in my lifetime.
Example of “Single Origin” Coffee
Here is a great example of single origin coffee from our friends at Barkeater Coffee Roasters. Try finding this kind of information next time you look at a typical coffee blend.
- Country: Honduras
- Farm location: Santa Elena, La Paz Honduras
- Farm characteristics:
- 29 acres with micro-lots
- 5,613 ft above sea level
- Processing: Sun Dried on patios
- Owner: Victor Sanchez
- Certification: Fair Trade & Organic
- Price: $12.00 – 12 oz.
As you can see, you know a lot of information about the origin of the coffee you will be enjoying. Enthusiasts believe that transparency like this, contributes to the clarity of the coffee’s taste.
If you have never experienced a Single Origin coffee, I hope this encourages you to give it a try. For some, coffee is just coffee, but for the discerning palate, a single origin coffee can be a memorable experience.
Enjoy More Coffee Content: 2015 Guide To Kona Coffee
Feature photo credit: Coffee cupping at Olivo Caffe with barista Marius Nica via photopin (license)
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