R.Watanabe, 29 January 2014
Thesingle-origin concept started in 1999 when the Cup of Excellence was startedand the focus on individual farms was, for the very first time, reallyhighlighted and explained on a broad scale. George Howell was one of thefounders of the Cup of Excellence and he has said many times over that the goalwas to highlight individual farms doing excellent things with growing coffee.There is still much debate on how single-origin should be really defined withsome wanting to focus more on geography, i.e. region, locality, single estate,microlot, etc., while others focus on processing methods and roast profiles,and still others proposing a mix of both and more.
Asimpler definition of single-origin coffee which came out in 2010, which is “a selection of coffee beans from asingle coffee farm, processed one way, and roasted with one roast profile.” Theidea behind this definition is that you highlight the coffee as much as possible,and present a coffee with a certain amount of clarity in its taste. It could bea microlot, it could be a specific processing method, or it could be a generalselection of beans from an entire farm.
Mostpremium brands of roasted coffee sold in the mainstream market is blended -usually only specialty coffee retailers and roasters offer single-origincoffees that is, exclusively from individual origins.
Mainstreamcoffees are of average to good quality and offer an average to good tasteexperience. These brands are well presented and accounts for over 90% of theworld market. Mainstream coffees are produced, traded, and roasted in largequantities by leading multinational coffee companies and marketed through supermarkets.They are expected to taste the same all time and that is why they have to beblended. For example, a washed or mild arabica will be used to achieve a fresh,clean cup with some acidity, then added with a natural arabica for give morebody to a cup, and for higher cup yield and lower prices, robustas are added.
Mainstreamcoffees are also blended to create a taste or flavor profile that can bemaintained at the lowest possible cost. This means that coffees areinter-changed, not only on the basis of quality but also on the basis of theircost. So the more flexible the blend is, the greater the money savingpossibilities. This fact unfortunately further decimates any morsel of qualityin coffee, especially in the lower end of the market.
Onthe other hand, single-origin coffees have a high intrinsic value because oftheir fine or unique cup quality (taste). Some of the best arabica plants growonly in a particular region of the world, are low in yield, and their berries maturelonger on the tree than other coffee varietals. And because of the nature ofthese beans, single-origin arabicas are usually of limited availability. And similarto artisanal wines, changes in rainfall, microclimate, and weather patterns inthe farm influence the beans’ flavor profiles, hence - coffee taste may not exactlybe the same from year to year. Some flavors may be more prominent and othersmore subtle. Still, other flavor profiles not usually present in previousharvests show up in the cup.
Single-origincoffees may offer more quality and value to your cup.