Single Origin Coffees Part II

Last time I answered some of the most common questions about single origin coffee. Now I’m going to try and clear up some of the other confusing aspects of single-origin coffee.

One thing that seems to be a point of confusion for people is how single origin coffees are labeled. You’ll see lots of information on a coffee bag label, and it’s not always immediately clear what all of it is for, or what it means.

Sometimes you’ll see the name of the region of the country in which the coffee grows. Some common ones you may recognize are

  • Antigua
  • Sidamo
  • Mandheling

Grades: sometimes you’ll see grades on the coffee– Usually some number of As and the occasional B. You see this on many coffees from places like Tanzania and Kenya. As you may guess, the more As, the better. Watch out though, because the grading systems are not standardized from country to country. I’m not suggesting they should be, either, but you should know that the situation is somewhat chaotic.

In Colombia, you’ll see the words Supremo and Excelso, which refer to the sizes of the beans. These can be solid coffees to be sure, but it’s in cases like this where the term Single Origin starts to mean less and less.

When you see a coffee for sale with a country and a grade but little other information it’s usually an indication that the coffee is pooled from many farms, processed and graded in a central location.

Then there are the Estate-Grown coffees. These are coffees grown on a single farm, then processed and packaged for shipment without being mixed with any other coffee. These tend to be the most expensive coffees around for a couple of reasons: it’s more expensive to process a smaller amount of coffee, and it’s less efficient to ship a smaller crop.

Coffee farmers may undertake the extra effort to sell their coffee as Estate grown if they’ve spent a lot of time and effort increasing the quality of their coffee by adopting advanced farming techniques.

Many Estate-Grown coffees are sold at auction rather than as a commodity graded coffee. Sometimes these coffees get incredibly high prices, especially when there’s a lot of hype around them. Google “Panama Gesha” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Is a pound of unroasted Panama Gesha coffee worth $600? I do not know, and I’m not in a position to find out (yet.)

Beware any coffee that has the name of a country in it and also the word “Blend”. If it’s a blend it comes from a couple countries, and the bulk of it is probably a country other than one in the name.

We’ll get into blends next month, in the meantime feel free to contact me with questions about single origin coffees and I’ll do my best to answer.

Thanks for reading! See you next time, we’ll be talking about BLENDS.