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Coffee Talk 101: Understanding What Single Origin Coffee Is

Posted by Daniel Dunaway on
Coffee Talk 101: Understanding What Single Origin Coffee Is

Millions of people around the world enjoy drinking coffee daily, whether it be a single-origin or a coffee blend. For some coffee drinkers, the differences between the two styles of coffee are somewhat confusing.

A few years ago, specialty coffee was not something that was very well appreciated or understood by coffee drinkers. It wasn’t until what is referred to as the Third Wave Movement took place that specialty coffee, like single-origin, began gaining popularity.


What Does Single-Origin Mean?

When it comes to coffee, there are literally hundreds of different flavors and variations. Although there’s such a large variety that’s available, coffee often falls within two categories. What you enjoy drinking every morning is either going to be a coffee blend or coffee from a single-origin. But what exactly do they mean by “single-origin”?

Well simply put, single-origin is exactly what it sounds like, coffee that comes from the same source, location, or region. By definition, single-origin coffee means that the beans come from a single crop, co-op, farm, or region. Although single-origin is a bit self-explanatory, there are a few different interpretations of the concept.

In some cases, you might find that the coffee comes from multiple farms within the same country. Other times you might see that the coffee comes from multiple farms in the same general area. This is one of the most common forms of single-origin coffee.

For the true coffee purists, however, the only true form of single-origin is when the coffee comes entirely from a single farm. Of the three ways that single-origin coffee is sourced, you can expect to pay more money for coffee coming from a single farm.

The Differences Between Blended and Single-Origin

To someone unfamiliar with coffee, they might believe that all coffee is the same. Coffee connoisseurs however know different. When you look around the grocery store the coffee aisle is littered with dozens of coffee brands and the majority of them are blends.

There are a number of reasons why so many people enjoy drinking coffee made from a blend. Some of the top reasons for the popularity of coffee blends are due to its availability, overall flavor, cost, as well as its quality.


Like a lot of other crops, when it’s time for harvesting coffee things become more bit more complex. Different varieties of coffee have different growing seasons. Most single-origin coffees are seasonally grown. Theses types of coffee can become difficult to find when it’s not in season. Depending on the size of the farm, the growing conditions, and the amount harvested the availability can fluctuate year to year.

Coffee blends on the other hand have the advantage of being available year-round. This is due to the fact that farms can grow different seasonal coffee varieties that can be harvested throughout the year. Coffee blends make up the majority of the coffee you see in most stores largely because they are consistently available all the time.

Coffee Flavor

The flavor of single-origin is going to be unique to the variety of coffee and its growing conditions. Like wine, the quality and taste of coffee grown in a single-origin take on qualities from the area’s soil content, climate, and altitude.

The flavor of coffee that comes from a single source or geographic location is usually very distinct. It could be the smell, the look, or the taste of the coffee. Or even all three. The overall flavor of single-origin is the biggest difference in comparison to blends.

Coffee drinkers who drink their coffee black may find the most enjoyment from single-origin coffee. The subtle under and overtones of the single-origin coffee is something every coffee purist should experience.

In contrast, coffee blends oftentimes lack flavor complexity. They serve more like a canvas to an artist by letting you create your own personalized coffee experience. Most coffee blend drinkers add milk and other flavorings to their coffee.

The Price of Coffee

Coffee is something that a lot of people drink throughout the day, multiple times a day. With millions of cups of coffee being drunk daily, just in America, affordability for the masses is important. The price difference between coffee blends and single-origin is something you will certainly notice.

Coffee blends typically are going to be much more affordable because of their availability all year round. The market has tons of different brands of coffee blends. Due to the competition, the prices for most commercial coffee blends remain fairly low.

In stark contrast due to the low yield of a single farm or crop, the prices for single-origin can be much higher. Availability, exclusivity, and the location of the source all play a part in determining just how much single-origin coffee costs. Although the cost is higher so is the quality of the coffee.

Coffee Quality

When it comes to determining which coffee variety is better, there are a number of factors that help identify its level of quality. It’s important to note that single-origin and blend coffees are not inherently better than the other. Like many things in life, it simply comes down to personal preference.

There are a number of factors that contribute to producing higher quality products. In the case of single-origin versus blends, single-origin usually has a higher quality than coffee blends for a few reasons.

According to the Specialty Coffee Association of America, or SCAA for short, they grade the quality of coffee on a 100 point scale. Using this point scale, they grade coffee on everything from visual inspection to the roast of the bean. For smaller operations like single-origin coffee farms and co-ops, it’s much easier to control the quality of the product that’s being packaged.

Coffee blend producers, on the other hand, rely upon other suppliers oftentimes, making it harder to actually control the quality of each bean going into the blend. Single-origin coffee is seasonal, and because of this, its cultivation requires a much more careful process to ensure a high-quality crop. Coffee growers of blends focus more on crop production and harvest to fill the year-round demand. This usually results in higher coffee quantity with a lower quality.

Popular Single-Origin Varieties

A lot of countries along the equator have become more well-known for their coffee. Countries like Kenya, Colombia, Guatemala, as well as many others, have been able to produce coffee that is both unique and high-quality and is distinctive to their regions.

Colombia Supremo

When it comes to coffee and great quality it’s hard not to think about Colombian coffee. Geographically, Colombia has the perfect climate and growing conditions for producing excellent coffee. One of the more popular single-origin coffee from Colombia is Colombia Supremo.

Grown in the Andes at over 1400 meters, Colombian Supremo coffee has a pleasant level of acidity and is very smooth and rich. The bean has a velvety finish, nutty overtones, and is usually medium to full-bodied.

Copan Coffee Roasters offers an excellent Colombia Supremo produced from the Antioquia region. With a fruity profile, you can expect unique flavors and a coffee drinking experience unlike that of a coffee blend.


Costa Rica Tarrazu

Costa Rica is another South American country that produces delicious coffee. For those who love a real full-bodied coffee, Costa Rica Tarrazu will not disappoint.

Tarrazu is a mountainous region in Costa Rica where this single-origin coffee grows. The cultivation of Tarrazu coffee takes place at 1,200 – 1,800 meters above sea level. Harvesting occurs during the winter season. When spring comes around, the newly added supply should make it easier to find and try for yourself.

Costa Rica Tarrazu has an intense and sometimes complex aroma. The flavor notes can range from that of citrus, tropical fruit, and even cacao is quite common. Ending with a smooth finish, Costa Rica Tarrazu will have you coming back for a second and third cup.

Ethiopia Sidamo

There are a number of well-balanced single-origin coffee varieties, however, one of the best is Ethiopia Sidamo. As one of the world’s largest coffee producers, Ethiopia is no stranger to top-quality coffee.

The region of Sidamo is a top producer of coffee in Ethiopia, processes high-quality and well-balanced coffee. Because Ethiopia Sidamo grows at such a high elevation, it qualifies as “Strictly High Grown”.

What this means is that because Sidamo coffee grows at elevations up to 2,200 meters above sea level, it takes longer to grow. This in turn allows for more time for the plant to absorb more nutrients which in turn increases the bean’s flavor and complexity. So if you’re interested in experiencing some of the best single-origin coffee from Ethiopia, trying Ethiopia Sidamo is a must-do.

Other Single-Origin Worth Trying

When it comes to listing all the amazing single-origin and specialty coffee, there are simply too many great farms and regions to name. As countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, and others continue to produce high-quality single-origin coffee the demand to sure to continue rising.

To experience delicious single-origin coffee in the comfort of your own home, take a look at these deals on some of the best single-origin coffee.


Although there are lots of different types of specialty coffee these days, single-origin coffee is often a misunderstood favorite among the coffee community. For the coffee drinker that craves something more than a standard cup of coffee with cream and sugar, single-origin offers a taste of how great coffee can truly be.


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