As you start learning about coffee, there are probably two things that top off your list.
- Fresh coffee is ALWAYS best
- Coffee snobs seem to like single origins
To get to the bottom of whether single origin coffee is really better, we have to figure out what it is and what we’re comparing it to.
The alternative to single origin coffees are coffee blends. And while there are some great blends out there, most people prefer single origins. It’s kind of like when you’re choosing a fine wine. Single origin wines are more valuable because they allow you to appreciate all the nuances of the region from which they come.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
What is a Single Origin Coffee?
When you hear that a coffee is of single origin, it means that the beans come from one region or country. In some rarer cases, they may even have been grown on the same estate. Each region may have a different harvest time, so availability may vary on freshly-picked beans throughout the year.
What are Coffee Blends?
As the name implies, coffee blends are made from a blend of regions. You may have beans from as many If your coffee doesn’t list an origin, it’s probably a blend. And in reality, most roasters only blend up to four regions under one label.
How Can You Tell the Difference?
Aside from the obvious labeling, there are a few ways you might be able to tell the difference between a single origin coffee and a blend. The following are some of the notable differences:
Cost and availability
In almost every case, single origin coffees will be more expensive than blended coffee. This isn’t an arbitrary thing, either. It actually makes a lot of sense. You see, the beans for single origin coffees are seasonal and typically not mass produced. And so enters the rule of supply and demand. The supply of single origin coffee is lower, so the prices are naturally higher.
On the other hand, blended coffees can be produced year-round with beans that are always available. So, the price usually reflects the greater supply.
Single origin versus blended coffee taste
When you taste a single origin coffee and a blended coffee side-by-side, anyone should be able to taste the difference. It may seem subtle to someone who isn’t well versed in the world of coffee, but there will be a notable difference. As you learn and experience more about coffee origins and flavors, the differences will become more obvious. After some time of drinking single origin coffees, you’ll probably be able to taste whether a friend poured you a cup of Kenya AA or a coffee blend. Not that you would let your coffee snobbery show.
Actually, it’s easier to learn about coffee and its various flavor profiles by tasting single origins. This is really the only way to highlight the various flavors that are unique to a region.
How to Taste Single Origin Coffee
Single origin coffees are all about flavor in its most stripped down form. This is why you should try to taste them without milk or sugar. Most people who really appreciate fine coffees will only drink them black. And you might be surprised to learn that the expensive coffee you order at your favorite trendy coffee shop isn’t single origin at all. If you’re ordering a latte, cappuccino or any other fancy coffee beverage, baristas will almost always use a coffee blend. It would be a waste to use single origin coffee beans when you’re only covering the flavor with syrups and steamed milk.
When to Drink Blended Coffee
Just like with anything, personal preference rules in the realm of coffee drinking. Because they use beans from various areas, coffee blends can sometimes be more complex and flavorful than single origins. So it all comes back to your personal preference. If you really love a coffee blend, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it every day.
But if you’ve never had the pleasure of trying single origin coffees, we suggest you give one a shot. You may uncover a new passion!