So you've been drinking coffee your whole life, you may or may not have moved up the coffee food chain in terms of quality. I for instance in my naivety used to think that my morning cuppa instant Joe was the pinnacle of coffee decadency. Stop Laughing! Fact of the matter is that most people simply cannot move on with their daily lives without their AM fix, you all know what I mean. While some people are quite content to do with that cup of instant, there are also those people who wont stop until they happen upon the perfect cup. These people inevitably never stop searching but single origin coffees will get them as close to the perfect cup as they will ever need to be. But what is it that puts single origin coffees in a different league, is it their price, their flavour is it the fact that the beans have been selectively hand-picked or is it something wholly indistiguishable?
First of all, what does "single origin" mean? Single origin beans are those that come from a single producer, crop, or region. Single origin beans can be traced back to a single farm, in which case we call it single estate coffee.
Estate coffees are usually sourced from renowned farms, and they are head and shoulders above the average sourced bean.
Furthermore, a farmer might differentiate between different areas of his farm.
The harvest from specific sections might have a greater value because of the altitude, or the specific soil, or the amount of sun. This is called micro-lot coffee. Micro-lot coffees can also be selected based on the harvest day. They are usually the most expensive, and they have the most unique profile of all the single origins. Some micro-lot coffees barely resemble any coffee you have ever tasted, and in a good way
So what does this mean for you? You may think that its all just a marketing spiel designed to trap you and your wallet, however should you ever be lucky enough to travel to a 100% Kona coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii or a Monsooned Malabar coffee farm in Kerala India and bear witness to the fruits of the labour of these coffee farmers who hand-pick single coffee cherries you would surely take comfort in understanding the difference and value between mass production and the passionate micro-production.
So back to the question...are single origin coffees better? this is still a hotly debated question and there may be no correct answer as personal opinions and tastes will always be different. However a look at some facts...
Purists will argue that the best Single Origin coffees are impossible to beat. Creating a single roast of a single batch of the best beans in the world gives a uniqueness and quality that can’t be matched.
One farm and one farmer means a much more highly defined set of characteristics. The same farm will receive the same amount of rainfall, the same sunlight, the same growing methods and so on. For this reason, the subtle flavors of the coffee become much more pronounced. When coffee beans are gathered from a number of farms – and not Single Origin – those flavors get lost in the mix.
There are people who will point out the kind of coffee roasters that select Single Origin coffee beans are the high-end ones. The coffee produced will be made with the best care and this is the reason why Single Origin coffee tastes better.
This is compounded by the fact that coffee shops that serve Single Origin are likely to be high-end places that will place a premium on the quality of coffee as well.
It’s also worth noting that the single origin coffees tend to dominate at the World Barista Championships. Again, this might be a result of the biases I mentioned above.
Like most things, whether you like or don’t like Single Origin coffee is going to be a personal matter. The best way to find out? Try some. See if you like it.
As a general rule, if the idea of having exotic but possibly overpowering notes of berry or spices in your coffee sounds awesome – you’ll probably enjoy a Single Origin. In my experience making coffee for other people, they really enjoy trying a good Single Origin.
Often they’ll be shocked at how the coffee tastes, it comes as something of a surprise to taste lemony notes in this brown and bitter drink!
Whereas if you prefer a smoother taste of coffee, one that has more dulled specific tastes but a lovely well-rounded coffee taste – getting a blend is probably right for you. These coffees are usually best for those who just want a ‘smooth’ coffee or just aren’t interested in anything too ‘over the top’ (those were actual words said to me by my mom when I made her one particularly flavorful coffee haha.)
If you do choose to buy some – and there’s little harm in picking up a $20 bag – exercise some discrepancy on where and what you buy.
That Ethiopian ‘Single Origin’ at Starbuck’s probably isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. The craft coffee roasters you found online that provides a wealth of details about the coffee it makes? That might be just the thing.
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