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  • Writer's pictureD Huang

Demystifying Single Origin v.s. Blend

It is often that we hear about the phrases, blend of coffee or single origin being thrown around when people are talking about their coffee of choice. What exactly are people talking about when they use these? We’re going to try to demystify these phrases and the meaning behind them for you.

Single origin in a broad term means the coffee comes from the same country and usually the same region or farm within that country. In the industry we also use the term, ‘Country of origin’. When a bag of coffee is Single Origin, it generally means that the coffee will have some generic regional flavour characteristics associated with the ‘Country of origin’. A common example would be, ‘Brazilian coffees taste like chocolate and have a nutty and buttery mouthfeel’.

The term ‘blend’ on the other hand means that the bag of coffee has beans from a number of different countries, so it’s a mix of single origins. When looking at a blend, it's normally is marketed with an associated name/purpose. Take our "SEASONAL ESPRESSO BLEND" as an example, which is a blend that uses seasonally available coffee from a number of different countries and is designed for espresso. We have designed the blend so it has a solid taste of spiced stewed apple, dark malt chocolate and toasted walnut. Which we achieve through combining the flavour characteristics from a number of different coffees.

In saying that, in the world of coffee drinkers, the idea of ‘regional flavour characteristics’ is GENERALISED to the extreme. Imagine saying the following to your wine drinking friends, "New Zealand wine always tastes like fresh fruit, floral notes and a crispy mouthfeel". Yeah... get what I am saying?

SO, what does single origin actually mean?

Nowadays, I think what single origin really means is coffee that came from a transparent & traceable source of origin. For example, we currently have our featured Colombia coffee by the producer Luis Anibal Calderon from Villa Betulia, at Acevedo, Hulia, Colombia. So we know the name of the producer, the farm, the town and the region in Colombia where the coffee came from. Furthermore, we also know this coffee is a 200 hour, naturally carbonic macerated pink bourbon. Again, I know those words are complete gibberish to some, but it essentially explains which variety of coffee it is and how it was processed. So sometimes that will just say ‘Washed’, which is a little easier to understand haha. But all in all it’s about the coffee you're buying being transparent and traceable. Allowing you to pin-point exactly where the coffee came from and how it was farmed and processed. Like our Colombian coffee, where the coffee farm even has its own instagram page, @villabetulia so you can learn more about them and what they do.

BUT, what does all this coffee information have to do with us?

Coffee is like wine, in more ways that we can ever imagine. So, it depends on what perspective we take:

- Consumers / Customers - those that buy and enjoy the coffee -

When accompanied with the right information on the packaging, it paints more than just a story of where the coffee comes from but also the effort that went into the coffee.

The terroir, varieties and processing methods are the key fundamentals of coffee flavour, therefore it would help us to understand what to expect when drinking the coffee.

Again using our Colombia for example, the pink bourbon coffee variety is juicy, sweet & packed with citrus & fruity notes. Further to that, long periods of controlled fermentation such as a 200hr Carbonic maceration process, see much of those flavour notes transform to become syrupier, rum-like and even jam-like.

- Professionals / Brewers & Barista / Roasters - Those that buy the green/roasted coffee and turn them into enjoyable brown stuff.

The understanding of this information is crucial as it paints a clear pathway for how we approach coffee. Based on its varietal, terroir and processing method, we can strategize our initial plan for brewing/extraction/roasting and start working towards perfection.

Take our Colombia again, which was grown at 1500-1600 m.a.s.l in a valley with dense native forest around. From that we can expect a relatively dense coffee that will have lots of organic compounds deposited in the coffee. But we also know that a 200hr Carbonic maceration process helps to provide consistency by allowing enzymes to work down the dense structure of the coffee bean and loosen up the organic compounds in the coffee. S we can take that information to help formulate and plan on how best to reflect the more syrupeir, rum-like and jam-like flavours.

When to enjoy Single Origin v.s. Blend

To many of the cafe punters, a blend of some coffee is normally what they get served by default. That is because a blend of coffee can create a more generic and people pleasing range of flavours that can deliver consistency a little easier for roasters and baristas. Hence the reason that coffee served is predominantly a blend rather than single origin.

We are, however, seeing a growing trend of cafes/restaurants taking on single origin coffee as a part of their offering. Many serving both, with some operators even go so far as to use single origin only.

Often at Society Coffee Roasters, we work with operators to get to know the single origin coffee they are serving in great detail. This means they can deliver more than just a drink, but a tasty coffee experience with a great story behind it.

In summary, when discussing when to use or enjoy a blend or single origin, we’ll just say:

If you just want to drink coffee to wake you up, over a meeting or catch up with friends, then there is no foul in drinking whatever blend of coffee as long as it is made well.

However, if you want to truly appreciate a cup of coffee and to be taken on a journey of flavours of the origin, then drink Single origin and engage in a meaningful conversation with your local barista/roasters.

"Coffee is far more than a beverage. It is an invitation to life, disguised as a cup of warm liquid. It is a trumpet wakeup call or a gentle rousing hand on your shoulder. Coffee is an experience, an offer, a rite of passage, a good excuse to get together."

- Nicole Johnson

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