Single-Origin Crash Course
What is Single-Origin?
Coffees that are referred to as single-origin are coffees that come from one specific producer, farm, co-op, or growing region. Single-origin coffees are often named after the farm or producer/farmer that grew them. In some areas, coffees are named after the washing station where they were processed. Other coffees are given a more general regional identification like Ethiopian Yirgacheffe or Colombian Huila.
Where is Origin?
Coffee is grown all over the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. Coffee, more specifically Coffea Arabica (the coffee species used in specialty coffee), is native to Ethiopia. After it’s discovery, coffee soon became a commodity and was traded across the empires located in the Middle-East and in northern Africa. Later, in the hands of traders like the Dutch East India Trading Company, coffee plants began to make their way across the world to new locations with different soil conditions and elevations. This was the beginning of the global coffee industry.
Today, Coffee is grown in more than seventy countries. These countries can be split into four major coffee-growing regions: Africa, South America, Central America, and south-east Asia. Let’s break them down one at a time:
As the birthplace of coffee, Africa is known for its bright and bold fruit-forward coffees. Some of the main coffee-producing countries in Africa are Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. The coffee industry in Africa has exploded in the past twenty years due to an increase in specialized infrastructure allowing more access to water for irrigation and coffee processing.
South America is home to two of the largest coffee-producing countries in the world, Brazil and Colombia. The multitudes of high-elevation landscapes and tropical climates found in these countries make them perfect for growing coffee on a mass scale. Quality is often lost when coffee is grown in such a commercial way but, there are still small-scale producers growing great coffee in these countries. Other notable coffee-growing countries in South American are Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. South American coffees often lend themselves to having rich warm flavors like cocoa, caramel, and vanilla that couple with citrus acidity.
Every country on the Central American isthmus grows coffee and are known for their variety in flavor and complexity. Some of the best coffees in the world come from Central American countries. A coffee varietal called a Gesha that grows well at the Esmerelda Coffee Plantation in Panama recently sold for $611 a pound green (coffee before it’s roasted). Major coffee-producing countries in Central America are Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico.
South-east Asia is home to two more of the world's mass-producing coffee countries, Vietnam and Indonesia. Unlike Brazil and Colombia, these countries are producing lower grade coffees that are used more for instant coffee or for their caffeine value. More specialized coffee is being grown in places like Papua New Guinea. Asian coffees are usually sought after because of their earthy, rich, and rustic flavor. Major south-east Asian coffee-producing countries are Vietnam, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, India, Sumatra, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.
From Country to Cup
Taste is the biggest difference between all these coffee growing regions. Just like wine, the concept of terroir applies to the coffee industry as well. The environmental makeup of each coffee origin is different which results in unique flavors profiles in the cup. Environmental factors that go into coffee's terroir include the following: Elevation, sun exposure, rainfall, farming methods, soil conditions, and processing methods. All these factors translate into why Africans are brightly flavored but more specifically Kenyans are grapefruity and why Ethiopians taste like berries and stone fruit.
At Manchester, we label all of our coffees with their origin information and the flavor notes we taste and correspond with the notes that come from the coffee's origin. You can experience more coffee origins by stopping into Manchester Coffee Company. Pick from our list of single-origin coffees. Ask a barista about their favorites and the flavors that are specific to that origin. The best way to learn about the different characteristics between origins is by drinking so cheers to your single-origin journey!