What is Single Origin Coffee?
To put it in the simplest terms possible, "single origin" means that all of the beans in your bag of coffee come from one specific region. However, each coffee producer defines "region" differently, so while that answer is factually correct it is also rather vague.
In this post, we'll take a more nuanced look at what single origin really means, why you should try some, and what to consider when buying or brewing it.
As stated above, the broadest definition of single origins are that they all come from one similar region. But, what is a region? Is it a continent? Is it a country?
We have heard of coffee brands attempting to claim that their coffees are single origin because they all are sourced from massively broad areas like South America or Central Africa.
We think that is a misuse of the phrase and frankly don't agree with the claim that beans sourced from a large expanse of area should be considered single origin.
You've almost certainly seen coffee labels touting claims like "100% Colombian Coffee" but does that make them single origin?
Consider a country like Brazil, which has coffee growing regions separated by distances as wide as 2,000 miles. Within that 2,000 mile span we could fit the entire neighboring countries of Uruguay and Paraguay.
The conditions and climate can vary significantly over a distance that wide, and because of that, we believe that single country coffees are still not true single origins.
Single Co-op or Climate
Oftentimes, a group of neighboring farmers within one climate will team up to form a growing co-operative (aka co-op) and market their beans together. These co-op’s typically share similar coffee growing factors such as temperature, precipitation, type of soil, and elevation.
This uniformity is what we feel is the minimum standard for labeling a coffee single origin. All Lucky Goat single origin coffees are sourced from narrowly defined climate regions or co-op.
Single Estate or Farm
The phrase single estate indicates that all of the coffee beans come from one specific farmer's farm.
You may be wondering why the specific estate would matter? If two farmers are next door to each other with similar conditions won't their coffees taste the same?
Yes, but also no.
One farmer may plant earlier than another, or use more irrigation, or add different supplements to their soil. Each of those factors impacts the final flavor of the coffee.
Choosing single estate coffees allows the individual efforts of one farmer's approach to shine through.
As mentioned previously, all Lucky Goat single origins are at least from one climate, but we often will source from single estates as well.
Single Lot (Micro-lot and Nano-lot)
Taking the single estate concept one step further, coffee beans can also be sourced from a singular lot (aka micro lot or nano lot).
This is the strictest and truest definition of single origin, as it indicates that the beans come from very specific locations within a farm.
For example, an estate may cover 50 acres and right in the middle of it is a large hill. The coffee grown on the eastern side of the hill gets the first light from the sunrise each day and the coffee on the western side gets more light at sunset.
Believe it or not, that slight difference in sunlight can have a nuanced impact on the coffee beans flavor, which a skilled coffee roaster can further enhance through the roasting process.
How Does Single Origin Coffee Taste?
As you've hopefully recognized by now, single origin isn't a flavor of coffee, instead it is a way of describing where the coffee beans come from.
Because of that, there is no one singular "taste" that all single origin coffees share. Each climate, estate, farm, or lot has its own distinct flavor so the only way to truly experience the nuance is to try a few.
We always have samples of our current single origins available at our cafes. Ask your baristas for a taste on your next visit!
Why Single Origin?
Single origins are beloved by coffee enthusiasts because they allow the drinker to experience the unique flavors of each region or climate.
With single origin coffee, drinkers can allow their taste buds to take a trip around the world. They can seek out a wide range of single origins to experience various flavors from across the globe.
On the other hand, there are individuals who are obsessed with specific tasting profiles and will regularly seek out coffees from regions that match their desired flavors.
Availability of Single Origin Coffee
So, you fell in love with a particular single origin and now it is gone. Where did it go and when is it coming back? Unfortunately, this can be one of the few drawbacks of drinking single origins.
A farmer can only harvest once each year, and that means once those beans are gone they are gone for good. Yes, they will harvest again next year, but just like grapes used in wine, one year's harvest can taste significantly different from the next.
But the good news is that there is always another region to try! Rather than be discouraged by the limited availability, we prefer to view it as an opportunity to continue trying new coffees and discovering new flavor profiles.
Single Origin vs Blends
Coffee blends are the exact opposite of single origins, in that they combine beans that are sourced from multiple regions into one blend. This could mean they source beans from different regions/climates in one country or from beans grown on completely different sides of the world.
Coffee roasters develop blends as a way of crafting their own distinct coffees with consistent flavors that are available all year long.
We have an entire post dedicated to the single origin vs blends [insert link] debate, so we'll keep it short here and state that neither choice is better or worse than the other. It’s purely a matter of personal preference.
How Are Single Origins Roasted?
At Lucky Goat, our Roastmaster develops a specific roasting profile for each bean that best draws out its distinct characteristics, thus every roast is different.
Our single origins are often light roasts as this allows for more of the natural flavors to shine through.
How Should You Brew Single Origins?
This is another question that becomes an issue of personal preference, but we suggest the pour over method as our recommended brewing method for single origins.
Single origins offer so much more than a singular flavor. We invite you to become a coffee connoisseur by exploring the globe with every new single origin brew.