Single Origin Coffee: Everything You Need to Know

Every bean has a story. The story behind each single origin coffee just tends to have fewer twists and turns than others. It's like being able to trace your family lineage straight back to the beginning.
Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

There are many ways to describe coffee: bold, fruity, decaffeinated, sweet, smooth. Some of these ways are more complex than others. When you hear the term “single origin coffee” though, it leaves no room for confusion about what you’re getting yourself into.

The idea of single origin coffee is not just about getting a one-of-a-kind taste experience; it’s about learning more about the land and people who grow your beans.

Let’s look at why it’s important to know where your beans originated.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

What Single Origin Coffee Means

Single origin coffee refers to coffee beans sourced from a single country, region, producer, or crop. These single-origin coffee beans may be named after the community, farm, or coop producing them. Single origin coffees each have unique flavors because each region has different soil and water pH levels, which can affect how the coffee tastes.

“The most important thing about single origin is its traceability, the fact that you know exactly where your coffee is from and that it’s a specific coffee, not a blend. Usually, of a higher quality, it’s the acknowledgment that the coffee is from a particular farm located in a unique setting, whilst its flavour depicts its origin, possessing characteristics of that specific area where the particular coffee was grown.” – Andra Vlaicu, from SCAE

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

Single Origin Coffee Flavors

The idea behind these single origin coffees is that they are supposed to have a unique taste profile not found elsewhere. If you speak with another coffee enthusiast, you’ll undoubtedly hear about their favorite blends and the country of origin. Single origin, on the other hand, takes it one step further. It is like tasting wine and identifying which grapes were used to make it.

In addition to having a unique taste profile, single-origin coffees may also have a distinctive story that can be traced back to the farm. Instead of selling to traders and brokers, some farmers can sell directly to roasters or consumers without having any middlemen.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

Why Single Origin Coffee is Popular

In the 1990s, specialty coffee began to gain popularity. People became more interested in single-origin coffees in the 2000s because they wanted to know where their coffee beans were grown. In fact, some roasters sell only single origin coffee beans!

In recent years, many consumers have gone on a quest to find exciting flavors from different countries. As a result, single origin coffee has become more popular as a way for consumers to explore new tastes from around the world.

In addition, there are many people who choose organic coffees and single origin varieties tend to be organic since they’re sourced from a specific farm. For those who prefer fair-trade products, it’s possible to find a variety of single origin beans that are also fair-trade.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

Is Single Origin Coffee Better?

Yes and no. Many people argue that single-origin coffee is better than blended ones because single-origin coffees are grown in a specific area of origin for an extended period of time, which allows them to develop specific flavors associated with their region.

But others enjoy the consistency of blended coffee. They suggest that a combination mixes different bean varieties derived from various regions to arrive at one coffee with particular tastes that complement each other in order to produce the desired flavor profile.

Certain single origin coffee will only be available seasonally and will only be around for a few weeks. That means you cannot stock up and have to order as you go. Blends work to maintain consistent flavor profiles year round.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

What to Know Before You Buy

So how do you find out which company serves high-quality coffee beans? One way is to visit the company’s website. Look for information about where they source their beans and how they roast them. Also, you could check online reviews (hint hint).

If you are purchasing from a local roaster, ask them about their sources. Most roasters are more than happy to chat and tell you about where they get their beans and how they are roasted.

When you are looking for single-origin coffee to purchase it’s important to know that there is no universal grading system. Countries may have different standards when it comes to the grade of the beans, so it’s helpful to do some research into your country’s grading systems before you buy.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

Does Single Origin Mean Good Quality?

The term “single-origin” is also not a guarantee of high quality or flavorful – some single-origin coffee beans are only mediocre. Also, the name “single origin” doesn’t divulge anything about the processing method.

In order to find good quality single-origin coffees, you need to do your research and know exactly what to look for. To find high quality beans, it’s important to determine how the coffee has been processed and roasted. Just like other food products, just because you have good ingredients, doesn’t mean you will have a great final product.

Honestly, the best way to determine if it’s good quality is to try it yourself. Because everyone enjoys coffee differently. Just because a certain bag or business is branded as “high quality” does not guarantee that you will like it.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

Single Origin Bean Countries and Their Flavors

So if buying a single-origin coffee means having a better tasting cup of java, what countries produce these types of coffees? The primary source of single-origin coffee beans is Central and South America as well as East Africa. There are single-origin coffees from some Asian countries as well such as Vietnam, Indonesia and China.

“‘Single origin’ is insisting that the producers and terroir of the coffee drive the sale, not the roaster,” – Charlie Habegger, Blue Bottle Coffee’s Buyer.

Ethiopian Coffee

The flavors of Ethiopian coffee can be tasted through mild and fruity notes. The lighter roasts showcase the fruitiness and floral aspects whereas the darker roasts take on a slightly earthy taste.

Columbian Coffee

Columbian coffee beans have a rich, bold flavor. The beans are mainly acidic and have a woody taste.

Chinese Yunnan Coffee

Mildly acidic with chocolate, malt, and woody tones. Yunnan coffee is often described as having a rustic or wild taste to it with earthy flavors.

Brazilian Coffee

From nutty to fruity, and savory. Brazilian coffee is somewhat acidic and neutral.

Indonesian Coffee

This coffee is sourced from the islands of Sumatra, Sulawesi, Flores and Java. Indonesian coffee tends to have sweet flavors with deep, earthy notes.

Kenyan Coffee

Kenyan coffees have a very unique taste that defines them as a country’s bean. Some common flavors include blueberry, strawberry, and wine.

Malawi Peaberry Coffee

This bean is considered one of the most unique beans in the world with notes such as lemongrass and jasmine.

Vietnam Coffee

Vietnam coffee often has a heavy flavor that can be described as rich and full bodied. The best part is that it’s less acidic than other types of coffee and there is an added nuttiness in the flavor.

Honduran Coffee

The Honduran is very smooth and full-bodied. Some of the flavors you can taste are chocolate, caramel, and honey.

Single Origin Coffee Harvesting

How to Brew Single Origin Coffee at Home

Single origin coffee is usually more expensive than your average bag of coffee, which is why it’s important to be able to make a good cup at home. The roast is also usually light or medium, so make sure to adjust your ratio of beans to water.

If you don’t have a pour over coffee device or an AeroPress, you can always use your standard drip coffee maker. If you find that your brew is over or under extracted, make adjustments to the grind size of your fresh ground coffee.

Final Thoughts

These coffees are often more expensive than your average bag of coffee because they have the potential to be of better quality with unique flavor notes. The best way to determine if it’s good quality single-origin coffee is by trying it out for yourself!

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Kris Silvey

I've been drinking coffee my entire life, from a little boy stealing coffee off the counter to an adult (who still steals his wife's coffee occasionally). I'm passionate about exploring the world of coffee and finding another great roast to experience.