What is Single Origin or Single Estate Coffee?
While there has been a lot of talk from coffee producers about Single Origin coffee for a few years, it is now becoming a consumer focus. There are a few different reasons why single origin or “single estate” coffee may be popular for a variety of consumers.
We are going to look at single origin or single estate (used interchangeably from here on) from a few perspectives. You may also see the terms single malt or single vineyard, which are indicating single origin, also. How does the buying a selling of single origin coffee effect coffee producers and the countries of origin? Is single origin better quality than traditional grocery store blended coffee? Does buying single origin mean the coffee will taste better? Are single estate coffee and Microlot coffee the same thing?
What is Single Origin or Single Estate Coffee?
Single estate coffee or single origin comes from a group of farms, usually under a single owner, in a specific geographic region. Certain brands use the term to encompass coffee originating from a single country, while others use it to mean a single farm. Basically, what you know without reading the description, is the coffee originated in a particular region or country. Instead of associating tastes with a brand, single origin evokes a sense of place through flavor.
Why is it different? When a coffee roaster is working with farmers in regions around the world, the opportunity arises to be much more selective about the plants, berries, and beans that make up your product. Single origin coffee from a good roaster is going to guarantee a better quality bean.
What is it About Single Origin Coffee Beans?
Thanks to local coffee shops and big commercial operations like Starbucks, consumers are learning a lot about what they love in their coffee. This learning is driving a big demand for high quality coffees. Instead of blends made up of inexpensive beans that in some cases aren’t the best for the land or the farmers that grow them and big marketing campaigns that tell consumers what they should be drinking when they wake, single estate coffees rely on the origin stories of the beans, the global location of the farms, and the taste of the product.
It all comes down to a consumer’s taste preference. Blends are focusing more on the mainstream consumer who has purchased and enjoys their grocery store brands. They are created in many cases to mask flaws in the individual coffees used to blend. Having said this, there are single estate coffee blends that include coffees from different global areas, and they can be fantastic (we have a few!). Single estate coffee is for consumers who have discovered coffee in local shops, and found a love of variety and particular taste preferences. One is not better than the other, it really comes down to what you like!
Why Hook & Ladder Chooses to Roast Single Origin and Single Origin Blends
There may be a few different interpretations going around of what single origin is exactly, but we refer to it as coffee that comes from a single known geographical origin and more specifically, a single farm. You can further break it down to single origin micro lot coffees, which derive from a single field on a farm. Blended coffee, on the other hand, is a combination of different single origin coffees mixed together. Generally, this is done to drive down pricing compared to buying from standalone estates – but this is not always the sole intention, and blending can be undertaken for a number of other reasons.
Is Single Origin and Small Batch Roasting More Expensive?
While small batch roasting single estate coffee is more expensive, it gives us a control over our product we could not have otherwise. Because the beans are from the same farms and geographic location, we can rely on the taste profile established for each and every roast we sell, even the blended roasts. We also love being able to offer those specific tastes with the various roasts to our customers. We have found that while someone may start off loving a particular medium roast, the more acquainted you become with single origin, the more interesting the flavor profiles of beans from particular farms and geographic areas become.
Is Single Origin Coffee Better?
Just like our wine selection, we find that the more interested our clients become in the origin of their coffee, the more they enjoy what they are drinking. It’s simply fascinating to think about that single farm in Honduras producing these beans that entirely make up the coffee you are drinking. We think it is, anyway, and it seems like our more adventurous customers agree!
Is There a Different Roasting Process for Single Estate Coffee?
One of the sticking points when we were first starting out that has become a constant, is our interest in roasting coffee. Older methods of roasting simply stated that the less quality the bean, the darker the roast. That only applies to generic beans blended together from all over the world because they could be purchased at the cheapest rate. With single estate coffee, we found the taste profiles from the coffee beans almost lent themselves to particular temperatures and levels of roasts. It was not an easy or quick process, but finding that roasting temperature where the origin flavor of the beans really shined is a big part of the fun for us, regardless of the cracking point or whether we’re labeling light, medium, or dark roasted.
Not to get too technically with an explanation of single origin coffee roasting, but the acidity of the taste is a big factor when we are choosing the roast type, and also if we are considering blending two origins for a specific outcome. For instance, our Espresso blend, was a lot of trial and error. In finding the best mix of origins, we weren’t loving the acidity, even when we landed on Brazilian and Guatemalan for the final Espresso blend, it was a real ordeal nailing down the proportions.
How Do You Pick the Best Single Origin Coffee Beans?
We’re honestly not sure how everybody else goes through this process. For Hook & Ladder, however, when we’re working with a new farm in a new region, we place a small order. We do not put a whole lot of stock in the information provided on cupping from the farm. We are looking at a bunch of factors about the plants and the region, and then we’re roasting and cupping to make sure this is a coffee our customers will love. If you are local, or you check out our local menu, you may notice we are not big on espresso and sugar-based drinks. We are really here for the coffee at home customers, or the ones who like a great cup of brewed or French pressed coffee from their cafes instead of all the extra.