Simplifying Single Origincoffee single origin | 21.03.21
You may have noticed we offer both “House” and “Single Origin” coffee, as do most specialty cafes. It’s not to confuse you; it’s to give you more options and the choice of tasting coffees from different parts of the world. Offering single origin coffee has become popular because it allows for not only diversity of products, but also the diversity of regional characteristics, such as specific processing techniques influenced by history and culture.
What is an "origin"?
In the coffee industry the term “origin” refers to the place where the crop was grown.
When a coffee is from only one origin, as opposed to a “blend” (multiple coffees from unique origins), it is referred to as a “single origin”.
How does it affect flavour?
Isolating by region allows you to really taste a coffee. Comparatively tasting different single origin coffees side-by-side can be a lot of fun when you discover how vastly diverse each coffee can taste. As you explore different origins, you begin to attribute certain characteristics to certain origins, and develop your own preferences.
This is why many retail coffee displays will indicate the flavour profiles attributed to an origin. Think: “Pineapple, white peach, floral”, like how our Colombia El Hormiguero is profiled. You get a sneak peak of what flavours to expect from a professional, before you purchase your bag of coffee. There are many other factors that influence a coffee’s flavour, but the origin of the coffee is the first and usually most influential one.
How precise is an origin?
An “origin” may be as specific as one microlot, all the way to a collective grouping of nearby coffees from different farmers and farms.
The specificity gets blurry when you get to the regional level, as many local producers and distributors will blend combinations of different coffees from the same region and sell it as a composite single origin coffee. If this is the case, those composite single origin coffees may come from different parts of the same region, and are then processed together. We can thank both the combined processing and the locale of the crop for the similarity in taste: all plants in that region share similar weather and terroir, and the combined processing determines the coffee’s end flavour hugely.
There are many coffee collectives that do this. At Skittle Lane we use a composite single origin house coffee sourced from La Falda, a producer in Colombia who use coffee from 37 different small-scale growers in the Municipality of Garzón.
How does it affect you?
Coffees labelled “Single Origin” that hail from a single microlot, farm, and producer are usually priced at a premium. This is because of sourcing efforts and quantity of crop: you are paying for the precision of a coffee from the same tree and lot, grouped and graded independently of other coffees, from farm to cup. Often coffee collectives support small-scale farmers that wouldn’t be able to sell their crop independently, so buying blends or composite single origins is not a bad thing, although purchasing responsibly is important.
Despite the complexities of industry terminology, specialty coffee culture has developed a growing understanding of the unique characteristics of different origins. Specific origins have made a name for themselves, creating more demand because of their repertoire. We are at the point where we can expect a certain characteristic in a coffee just by knowing where it’s from. This does not mean there aren’t surprises, and you should always taste a coffee before assuming its attributes.
Next time you have the option, try tasting a single origin coffee. It’s an immense privilege to be able to experience coffees from vastly different origins. If you’re lucky enough to taste a product of Ethiopia and then Colombia in the same room, made for you by the same barista, you should give it a go— you may even discover a new favourite coffee origin.
The Skittle Lane Team
Images: Melbourne Coffee Merchants