What is Single-Origin Coffee — And Why You Should Try It

Common Sense Coffee's Jefferson Roast sitting in a pile of freshly roasted Guatemalan coffee beans.When it comes to great coffee, most people agree that nothing beats single-origin coffee. You may have heard this term before — and even if you drink single-origin coffee regularly, it’s not immediately clear what this term means. Let us tell you what precisely single-origin coffee is and what is so good about it.

What is single-origin coffee?

Benefits of drinking single-origin coffee:

  • More complex flavor and aroma
  • Reduced bitterness
  • Better for black coffee lovers

Single-origin coffee is just what it sounds like: coffee consisting of coffee beans that come from one specific place -and only one place-, whether that place is one small farm, an estate, or in some cases, a whole country or region. However, the coffee we consume is often a blend of several different types of beans. Why is this?

Let’s go back to the roots. How is coffee grown? From a coffee plant, of course. This plant’s fruit (which is tiny and referred to as a “cherry”) is harvested, dried, and everything, but the seed remains. That’s right: Coffee beans are seeds, but we call them beans because they look like beans.

Not all coffee beans are the same, however. Two variations of coffee plants: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee beans and its varieties each have a unique flavor and aroma. They are the most coveted of coffee beans, taking up about 60% of all coffee plantations around the world.

Did you know?

The most expensive Arabica coffee variety is called Geisha and is native to Panama. These coffee beans can reach prices as high as a thousand dollars per pound of green coffee beans. This price can double after roasting, making it the most expensive coffee bean in the world, as well as the most delicious one.

Robusta coffee beans, on the other hand, only takes up a little under 40%. And it doesn’t taste (or smell) nearly as good as Arabica; It offers mostly a bitter taste and a strong coffee aroma with no nuance. But here’s the thing: Robusta coffee is straightforward to grow. It can be grown almost anywhere, can handle lower and higher temperatures, and offers a plentiful harvest with less work.

That’s a big reason why most of the coffee we drink is blended, a mix of different beans. Coffee can have as much as four different types of coffee beans: Arabica from El Salvador for good taste, Robusta from Brazil to inflate the content, a little sweet Arabica from Ethiopia to balance out the bitterness, and then some Robusta from Vietnam for good measure.

While blends can taste good and it certainly takes skill to make specific blends work, they exist mostly for profit. Blends kill a coffee beans individuality, dulls their unique nuances in flavor and aroma.

Disadvantages of blends:

  • Increased bitterness and acidity
  • No outstanding qualities in flavor or aroma
  • Usually needs sugar or cream to be palatable

Why should you try single-origin coffee?

If it was not evident from the previous explanation, the range of single-origin coffee goes far beyond what one would expect from regular coffee.

All the best gourmet coffee originates from single-origin, Arabica coffee beans. You can find amazingly different flavors in coffee; A sweet, acidic coffee that has hints of sweet orange and mango-like a South American Caturra coffee bean or a warm, bittersweet flavor with hints of nuts and caramel-like a Bourbon coffee bean. Like it happens with fine wine, each different single-origin coffee lends itself to different occasions.

Enjoying and getting to know single-origin coffee will also turn out to be a gateway to learning more about the countries where the coffee comes from, as well as getting to know more about how that coffee made its way into your cup.

A short guide to tasting single-origin coffee

So, you’ve bought yourself single-origin coffee, and you’re dying to try it. How should you go about tasting it the first time?

First, determine how you’re going to brew the coffee. Depending on the roast and grind size, you might brew your coffee in a French press or a Hario instead of the usual espresso to bring out all the flavor.

Second, brew enough for two cups. One of these cups is for you to try right away, with some sugar if you like, but we prefer drinking it black, while the coffee is hot. The second cup of coffee you’re going to let cool at room temperature; try once it’s reached temperature. Notice the small -and sometimes significant- differences in flavor between hot and cold and determine the coffee’s potential for cold drinks.

And with that, you’re ready to begin your single-origin journey. Let us know how your single-origin journey, we’re always interested in hearing your stories.

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