Single Source Coffee: Why it Matters
The terms “single origin” and “single source” have been popping up quite a bit lately in the coffee world. They generally mean the same thing—coffee beans that can be traced back to a single region, farm or co-op, although single origin generally refers to what part of a country a coffee originates from, while single source may refer more to a specific farm.
So why is single source coffee special? It turns out that geography has a big impact on the taste of coffee, and having a single source makes it easier to trace the coffee beans back to one farm, season or harvest. A couple of experts offering single source and single origin coffee shared further thoughts on the topic.
Lizeth Zorrilla owns La Finca Coffeehouse (3558 E. Sivyer Ave., St. Francis) with her sister, Janeth. They serve coffee grown on their grandfather’s farm in Oaxaca, Mexico. His coffee crop, at its lowest point, is 1,500 meters above sea level (MASL), and at it’s highest, it reaches 1,800. Lizeth said this altitude provides a high-quality bean with a very unique taste.
The lower altitudes in the state of Oaxaca generally produce coffee that is medium bodied, with a slightly nutty, almond taste. It’s good on its own, and it’s also versatile and works well in many coffee drinks. “I think single source is becoming popular because people want a deeper connection or understanding of what they are consuming,” Lizeth added. “With the amount of information available to us, more and more people want to know how food is processed or made. More people are also interested in spending money to support local small shops.”
Kendra and Steve Hawthorne own Hawthorne Coffee Roasters (4177 S. Howell Ave.). They serve all single source coffee, and no blends. “When you mix everything together, you really can’t tell what is what,” Kendra said. One example of single source they serve is a Colombian coffee from Los Naranjos farm. “A lot of the specialty coffees from Colombia in general have a really distinct, great fruit brightness. This particular coffee rounds out nicely with a green apple crispness,” Kendra said. “It’s one of the best cup winners of this region.”
More research and studies are being done on the scientific aspects of coffee, Kendra said, and now we know that aspects such as altitude, where a country is positioned in the world or even other plants that grow near the coffee crop can all make a difference in the flavor.
While taste matters, the main reason for the increased interest in single origin coffee is the social responsibility. “I think you can compare a lot of what’s going in coffee to what’s going on the food industry, where people have become more conscious of what they’re buying,” she said. “They’re willing to pay more for coffee that’s been responsibly sourced and processed.”
Coffee that’s labeled by a single origin or source lets buyers know exactly where it comes from, and whether those employees are treated fairly and are getting fair wages for the coffee beans they’re selling, Kendra explained. “Historically, coffee as a commodity has been very cheaply traded, which means that labor conditions in some of the coffee growing countries have been less favorable. Coffee is coming along with the rest of major industries, like food and even some textiles, as far as social responsibility is concerned.”
So when you buy a cup of single source coffee, or a bag of single origin coffee for home brewing, you’re helping to build a network of quality products and ethical business practices. Do you have a favorite coffee from a specific country, region, farm or co-op? Let us know your choice, and why you think it’s the best.