Many years ago (2016), I was writing copy for a number of coffee publications and after a few years of researching and writing, became a bit of a coffee nerd.
One of my most viewed articles was entitled The History Of First, Second & Third Wave Cofee, where I took a look at changing movements in coffee production and service, called “waves”. (You can check out the original article in the link below. Be forewarned, the current owner of the website has packed it with ad space, so it’s a little annoying to read through.)
Today, the third-wave movement continues to grow, as more coffee enthusiasts explore and experience specialty coffee. One of the characteristics of the third-wave movement in coffee today is the emphasis on single origin. Single-origin did not begin with the third wave, but its popularity and marketing have made it a common talking point today with coffee enthusiasts today.
What does single origin really mean? Simply put, “single origin” is about information and taste. But answering this question in a broader sense is more difficult than you might think. The meaning of “single origin” can shift, depending on the individual being asked and even the context of the conversation.
It’s About Information
Single origin is about information. Information about your coffee that identifies the geography or country where it originated. Different coffee-growing regions produce different coffee tastes. When you know the origin of your coffee, you have an expectation of that coffee’s characteristics and taste. The coffee will then bear the name of that country or region. For example, if you drink Ethiopian coffee, you know the beans came from Ethiopia, Colombian coffee from Columbia, and so on. Seems elementary right? Well, the importance is, it distinguishes the coffee from a “blend”, which can be coffee mixed from a variety of sources.
How Do The Experts Define Single Origin
However, this is a very broad definition of single origin and for many third-wave coffee enthusiasts, this broad definition of single origin will just not do. One of the best definitions I’ve found for single origin comes from Mark Prince, the @CoffeeGeek himself, who states
“it is, simply put, one type of bean from one area of one farm (sometimes called a micro-lot) roasted one way.”
This very specific definition of single origin becomes microscopic in its transparency. Not only can you know the country where your coffee came from, but the farm where it was harvested, the field (micro-lot) where the trees grow, and the unique processing of the beans.
This is my favorite way to source coffee. Next time you visit your favorite coffee shop, ask for their list of single-origin beans and see if there is something that kindles your interest.