The entire coffee producing world is one big place! Every country and region has different ways that it cultivates coffee. Single origin coffee is coffee that is grown in a single area or region, and single estate coffee is grown on just one coffee plantation.
For many, drinking a single origin coffee is a way to experience through coffee the flavor of that specific place. Usually, single origin coffee comes from one farm or even specific acreage on that farm. But in places such as Kenya and Ethiopia, many farmers work small parcels of land. The coffee may come from cooperatives in those countries, as long as coffee is processed in one specific area.
People look for single origin coffee because conditions for growing, such as weather, soil and methods of cultivation, are the things that provide coffee with specific character and flavor notes. There are many microclimates in higher elevation geographies that are well suited to coffee. Coffee beans on one side of a mountain vs the other side can really change the maturation rates and sugar levels in the beans.
When coffee lovers compare single origin coffees in one country side by side, there will usually be stark differences. For example, Burundi coffees from different parts of the country can have very different flavors. A Burundi Kayanza Nkonge coffee can be very clean and sugary sweet, while a Kayanza Karusi may have darker caramel notes and apple tartness.
Single origin coffees are picked and grown in a single growing season, too. But there are some single origins that go further. they will isolate the picking of the beans to a certain harvest in that season. It is possible for a microclimate of a region with a lot of rain and cold nights to produce coffees early in the season that are not as sweet, but more aromatic, while later harvests may be more mellow and sugary.