A single-origin coffee is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a coffee that comes from a single origin - which usually refers to a farm, country, or coffee growing region. Depending on how green coffee is processed in that region, it may come from a single farm, coop, or coffee processing facility. If it comes from a single processing facility there is no guarantee that the coffee is of one varietal. This is why knowing both the location and the varietal is important.
A single origin coffee can be likened to a single-malt scotch rather than a blend. Either that malt is of such high quality that it can stand alone as a quality product, or it can't. Sometimes lower quality malts are blended together, but other times high quality malts blend to create something greater than the sum of its parts.
Another way to describe what a Single Origin Coffee is, would be to describe what it is not:
Coffee is traditionally blended ( "blending" refers to the process of mixing of multiple single origin coffees into one blend with some goal in mind) for one of three reasons:
- To hide a defect. Some coffees may just be of a lower quality, or lack a discernible flavour profile of its own, or sometimes - due to a lack of proper purchasing protocol it may be purchased in error, that contains a defect that a Roaster is simply unable to hide. These unsavoury qualities can often be disguised by the addition of another coffee that has a strong trait that can effectively hide the negative defect in the first bean. This process is “repackaged” as “Artisan Blending”, and sold off as a premium process designed to accentuate the pleasant qualities of coffee, and while this statement isn’t wholly untrue, it may be misleading.
- A second common reason for blending coffee is for economic reasons. Similar to the first reason, some Roasters will purchase cheap Arabica coffee that can have its negative qualities masked by blending it with other coffees that have a strong enough characteristic to hide the negative. Sadly, this method only saves a few cents per kilogram, yet over the millions of kilograms they roast represents a substantial amount of money.
- A third reason to blend is less "nefarious", and requires skill and finesse. Consider our scotch whiskey example: high quality blends like a Johnny Walker Blue is a blend of high quality individual malts that could likely stand on their own as single malts. The master distiller blends these with a specific flavour profile goal in mind. They wish to create something that has layers of flavour that a single-malt just can't achieve on its own. Something similar happens with quality coffee blends like an Espresso blend and a signature house blend. The coffee roast master is blending with a specific goal in mind. Working towards creating a flavour profile that reveals layers of flavour. By contrast, a roast of a single variety and origin has nothing to hide behind.
At FIX! our sourcing protocol results in finding some of the finest Single Origin Coffees available, and we blend only two carefully crafted blends: