From “fair trade” to “cold brew”, the growth of the specialty coffee market has spawned a number of different terms in recent years, many of which have entered into common use.
Yet one term that’s become particularly popular is “single origin”. Single origin is a term used to denote a coffee from a specific variety of coffee plant, from a specific farm or region. It can also be applied more broadly to describe coffee from one country.
In addition to providing a high level of traceability, single origin coffees are often characterised by their distinct and complex flavour notes.
To find out more about single origin coffee, I spoke with MTPak Coffee Brand Ambassador Nicole Battefeld.
What is Single Origin Coffee?
In short, the words “single origin” describe coffee beans that have come from no more than one farm, estate, or variety. In its broader sense, it can be used to refer to coffee from a single country, however, this can be somewhat misleading.
This is in contrast to whiskey and wine, in which “single malt” means whiskey produced by one distillery and “single vineyard” means grapes from just one vineyard.
Single origin coffees generally have bolder and more distinct flavours compared to the balanced, yet muted flavour notes typical of blends. The reason for this is that the growing conditions unique to each region, such as soil, altitude, sunlight, and rainfall, greatly influences the sensory profile of coffee.
Over time, these distinct properties become familiar to coffee consumers, with some being able to place coffees to specific regions or countries based on how they smell and taste. For example, single origin coffees from Colombia often have caramel and toasted nut flavours, whereas coffee from Kenya tend to have more citrus and berry notes.
Nicole Battefeld has worked in the coffee industry for a number of years, and now trains baristas in Berlin. She tells me that a defining quality of single origin coffee is its “story”.
“Each cup of coffee has a story, which includes the people and the place behind the coffee,” she says. “This can be the estate, the farmers who grew it, or [a] specific variety in the region.”
Why Should Roasters Offer Single Origin Coffee?
Analysis by the Tasters Study Centre involving a group aged between 18 and 64 found that coffee consumers have evolved considerably in recent years, with a particular focus on sensory experiences and the idea of “pure” coffees.
This is supported by research from the National Coffee Association (NCA), which reported that nearly half of all cups of coffee consumed in 2015 were of specialty grade. This means they were scored 80 points or above by a certified Q grader on a 100-point scale.
Single origin coffee plays a significant role in the development of the specialty market because it offers consumers the chance to try complex and unique flavour notes from each coffee.
“As consumers have become more aware of the differences between different coffees, origins and varieties, there is a desire to experience these variables and further their knowledge,” Nicole explains.
“Everyone has different preferences and single origin coffee allows people to develop their tastes by picking up on the distinct characteristics of the coffee. If, for example, a consumer is able to taste the difference between an Ethiopian natural and a Brazilian semi-washed, it allows them to make more informed decisions about what they buy in the future.”
Traceability also plays a significant role in the appeal of single origin coffee. Today, coffee consumers want to know everything about their coffee, from the farm on which it’s grown to the way in which it’s been processed.
Single origin coffees generally provide a greater degree of traceability, allowing consumers to find out about the specific source of the coffee and the people behind it. Their association with third wave coffee culture and its focus on traceability means that roasters often include this information, and more, on single origin packaging.
In contrast to packaging for blends, which may be limited to information on flavour notes and a roast date, single origin coffees are usually packaged with more information about the farm, climate, variety, and processing method, among other things.
What Do Roasters Need To Consider?
While data from US coffee retail stores indicates that consumers are willing to pay more for single origin coffees, there are various obstacles in offering them that are worth considering.
Single origin coffees are often associated with higher quality, but it is also extremely volatile, and can be affected by a number of different supply issues. The flavours of the coffee could also change from one harvest to the next. This can be a problem when attempting to create a consistent and repeatable experience for customers, as there will be no direct substitutes should any issues arise.
Another factor for roasters to consider when buying single origin green coffee is what it will be used for once it’s been purchased by the consumer.
For example, the intense fruitiness or acidity of a single origin may not complement milk-based beverages as well as blends designed to be more well-rounded and balanced. Some consumers may prefer more ‘traditional’ flavour profiles of chocolate and nuts that go well with milk.
Nicole states that it’s important for consumers to understand the coffees that best suit their needs. This responsibility usually falls to either the roaster or barista.
“By communicating both the major and minor differences between different coffees, we can create a better experience for the consumer,” she says.
At MTPak Coffee, we provide fully customisable labels that can be printed with as much information on flavour notes, roast profile, and brewing suggestions as required. This will allow customers to make informed decisions when buying their coffee and improve the likelihood of them making repeat purchases.
Over the last few years single origin coffees have become increasingly popular. Not only do they provide more distinct flavour notes and aromas, it enables consumers to obtain ever-greater knowledge about the coffee they buy.
At MTPak Coffee, we have a range of sustainable packaging solutions for those looking to roast and sell single origin coffee. Our labels and pouches can be customised to include information on the distinct characteristics of the coffee, as well as the story behind it.