What is Single-origin Coffee?
Put a fresh Moka pot on because we are about to get into single-origin coffee. I have worked in many coffee shops, ranging from Starbucks to mom and pops, and have ground, brewed, and served a lot of coffee but only now can I say I know what single-origin coffee is. And if you stick it out through this article so will you! Is your Moka pot ready?
Single origin to micro-lots
Coffee, like wine or whiskey, can carry flavor and experience across oceans and time. Of course, sometimes coffee is just a cup of coffee, you sip it through a plastic lid and if it’s not too bitter or cold then it will suffice. But you would not guzzle an expensive wine, and, likewise, a cup of Kopi luwak from Indonesia should be prepared correctly and savored.
Unfortunately, “single-origin” has a variety of meanings ranging from coffee that comes from one producer, crop, region, or even one country. As if the climate of an entire country is uniform. There are labels touting “single farm” or “single estate” which mean that the coffee is sourced from one farm, mill, or co-operative. Some coffee labels will even tell you the estate name or the specific lot the coffee was grown on. At the most zoomed in there are micro-lots which specify a varietal from a specific farm. Micro-lots can even detail the altitude the coffee plants were grown at and what day the coffee cherries were harvested! This extreme focus on the plants and processes can bring stunning clarity to your cup of coffee – if you have the acumen to discern such nuances.
Single-origin is all about knowing where your coffee comes from. Single-origin coffee is usually of a higher quality and has flavor characteristics indicative to the region or estate. One of the most expensive coffees in the world is cultivated on the sides of Mount Baru in Panama in the shade of guava trees and sells for 10,850฿ per 454grams. That may be expensive, but Thailand currently produces arguably the most expensive coffee drink in the world! The company Black Ivory Coffee feeds coffee cherries to elephants that then poop out the coffee. The “processed” coffee is then collected from the dung and dried and roasted like any normal coffee. But the price is anything but normal! The elephant-digested coffee can be bought online at 6,585฿ for 105 grams, equal to 62,731฿ a kilogram!
Single-origin has grown in popularity due to the consumer’s concern with where the coffee comes from, who is growing the coffee and the circumstances around the treatment of the people tending the coffee. Exploitation of people and the environment is not cool.
A more sophisticated consumer
We don’t need a morning coffee digested by an elephant every morning and sometimes I don’t have time to hang around the coffee shop waiting on the pour overs to finish so in those cases I go for a quality coffee blend rather than a single origin. Blends are consistent and tend to be roasted darker (destroying some of the more delicate flavors) and go well with milk in espresso-based drinks. Blends are great for the day to day coffee that gets you up in the morning and through the day.
One of the benefits of brewing at home is the simple hand brewing methods preserve the special characteristics of the beans. And because these methods – pour over, French press, AeroPress – have become more popular drinking single-origin coffee on a daily basis is on the rise.
Understanding where the coffee comes from, where it is processed and how the brewing process affects flavor all contribute to a greater demand for single-origin coffees and specialty coffees. Because coffee culture is turning away from instant and sweet to crafted coffee, the farmers are opening up to experimentation with new coffee varieties, harvesting times and techniques, and milling and processing methods. This, in turn, creates new coffee experiences and more demand for specialty coffees.
With the internet, you can buy quality single-origin coffee and get it delivered right to your door. metacup.com has an amazing selection of freshly roasted coffee from around Thailand and the world. If you are looking for a way to try some great coffee and not have to buy kilos at a time metacup.com is the place. Be sure to use the coupon code: “COFFEESIMPLE” for 5% off your order.
Are single-origin coffees worth the price?
Of course, this comes down to you, but if you made it this far in an article about single origin coffee and you are on a coffee blog you should be exploring the tastes of single origin coffee! You may have to adjust your expectations, I know I did. After years of preferring dark roasted coffee, the appreciation of the lighter, fruitier, or citric tea-like flavor profiles of single-origin coffees took some re-education. Go for a mid-ranged 500-900฿/250g bag to get started. Below is an example of what to look for on the packaging and what a good roaster should be able to answer.
2. If it is single-origin then where is it from? Once you know that this coffee is from Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia then you can look up the characteristics that go along with this region.
Known for its sweet flavor and aroma with a light to medium body. Ethiopian Yirgacheffes are spicy and fragrant, and are frequently reviewed and rated as some of the highest quality Arabica coffees in the world.
3. How were the beans processed? In the example, these beans were washed. Which means it was a wet process to extract the beans from the hull.
4. This one has to do the with the genetic lineage of the coffee plant that the beans came from. Coffee comes from Ethiopia and it is estimated that in Ethiopia alone there are 6 to 10 thousand varietals!
5. How you should brew this particular bean. Of course, you can brew your coffee however you like, but there may be certain methods that bring out the flavors better.
6. Here is a breakdown of the profile of the coffee. Because this is a light roast from Ethiopia these beans will have higher acidity and lower bitterness. Once you learn your own preferences then you can use this as a reference to select coffee.
7. This is the roast of the coffee beans. A light roast will allow more of the region’s flavors come through.
I have just begun my own exploration of single-origin coffee and so far I have not only enjoyed experiencing different flavors but also the stories behind the coffees. An easy way to start your own coffee journey is to order freshly roasted coffee from Metacup.com. With the coupon code “COFFEESIMPLE” you can get 5% off your first order. Here are a few recommended single-origin coffees to get you started.