If you are a serious drinker of coffee, you know what ‘single origin’ coffee is, as well as ‘single estate’ coffee. These are coffees that come, respectively, from one single geographic area, and from a single solitary coffee growing plantation. Single source and single estate coffee, done properly, are superior to coffee blends because they are higher quality coffee beans and have been grown with specific flavor profiles in mind.
However, there is some confusion as of late regarding single origin coffees. Starbucks stirred things up recently by offering what it calls a ‘single origin blend.’ This makes some wonder if Starbucks is attempting to muddy the waters of single origin coffee; by inferring that it comes from a single origin but is still a blend, how does the coffee drinker know if the beans are all from the same place, the same flavor profile and the same quality?
This is not a matter isolated just to Starbucks. Coffee experts have reported that some coffees, such as Sumatra Fair Trade Organic Cofee, are being marketed as single orign, but Fair Trade Organic Sumatra coffee can come from a massive area of land from hundreds of suppliers.
Other companies mean different things when they call a coffee single origin. Some use it to refer to a single, specific part of a country, or a specific farm or farm cooperative. Still others will use ‘single origin’ to just mean coffee from one country. But if that country is a huge one such as Brazil, then clearly ‘single origin’ has lost all meaning.
In the Starbucks example, politics comes into play. Its new single origin blend comes from Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange makes it hard to buy coffees from a more specific entity than ‘regional.’ So for many of Starbucks new single origin coffees, it can be hard to tease out just how single of an origin that it is.
As a serious coffee man or woman, what are you to do? One of the best solutions to ensuring you receive the absolute best coffee is to buy from a legitimate source of single estate coffee beans. There are a number of coffee distributors that only purchase their coffee beans from confirmed single estate suppliers with the highest quality of beans and distinct flavor profiles. Buying from confirmed single estate sources will ensure you are getting the best coffee in your cup each day.