What is Single Origin Coffee?

June 08, 2021 6 min read

What is Single Origin Coffee?

There’s nothing like drinking an amazing cup of coffee and the feeling of it awakening your senses with its deliciousness.

As you drink, you notice the powerful aroma and strong flavours of milk chocolate and honey sweetness. Looking at the bag you see that it’s a single origin coffee from Brazil. From a region called Campos das Vertentes and grown by a farmer called Pedro. Pedro’s family has grown coffee for five generations and runs a bird sanctuary on their land. Your morning cup is more than just a boost to get you going, it can be an opportunity to learn about the world and travel to exotic places.

Pedro Gabarra standing over drying beds of coffee

Just one of the many reasons to drink single origin coffee.

The first, of course, is you get to drink delicious coffee. But it’s much more than that. Drinking single origin coffee, or singles as we call them, gives you the chance to explore the fascinating world of coffee, learn about the flavours common to each origin and support farmers with their efforts to grow (and sell) better coffee.

Single-origin coffee comes from one country, or from one particular region or farm. Each country grows and sells coffee in different ways so you see co-ops in Ethiopia, small farms in Guatemala and vast estates in Brazil. 

Think of it as single malt whiskey. It’s the product of one place and one land. You can taste the farm where it grew, the varietal the farmer chose and how he processed his coffee beans.

But it wasn’t always like this.

Once upon a time, before the rise in specialty coffee and the third wave of the late ’90s, coffee was far less traceable and nowhere near as good as it is now. Coffee farmers sold their crop to brokers who blended it all and sold it as regional lots to roasters around the world. A wholesale “brazil coffee” might include beans from a number of different farms across the region, who had varying processes and quality, and there was little incentive for growers to produce a high quality and differentiated crop.

As interest grew, roasters asked for sweeter, cleaner coffees and said they would pay more them. Farmers saw the value of separating their coffee and selling them as individual lots with a focus on quality and processing, as it would fetch a higher sale price.

Today, at Rumble we work with fantastic farmers around the world. We try and buy from the same people each year and let them know what we are looking for in their coffee. As the quality of the coffee increases then we pay more for the coffee. As part of a worldwide movement we also publish and share what we pay for each coffee in our Transparency Project.

The price of coffee has been unsustainably cheap for many years, with many farmers earning less than the cost of production. To support the future of coffee, we are proud to pay a premium for quality.

What’s the difference between single origin and blend coffee?

A blend is a mix of two or more coffees and is the most common type of coffee in Australia. A blend allows roasters to mix coffees to create the flavour profile they want. Blends can produce coffee that tastes consistently the same throughout the year, even as the components change.

Single origin coffee beans might be fruity and floral and fantastic but not have the body to carry through a cup of milk in a latte. That coffee might be better as a long black espresso or maybe just a filter roast.

Many of our customers, like other top coffee shops, have one of our blends (shadow boxer, haymaker and street fighter) for their house blend. Then they choose one of our single origins as a guest espresso and use it to brew all their black coffee like long and short espressos, and batch brews. 

Our Shadow Boxer blend is mix of a natural process coffee from Brazil and a washed coffee from Papua New Guinea. The Brazil brings body and chocolate flavours while the PNG adds raspberry and toffee.

Pouring a latte of our Shadow Boxer Espresso Blend

Why are coffee blends cheaper?

We brew espresso blends with espresso machines and mostly drink them with milk. The interesting, unique (and expensive) flavours that make single origins special can get washed away with all that milk, so roasters can use cheaper coffee.

Side note; If you ever see a roaster boasting about how much they pay for one particular coffee without disclosing what they pay for their blends, then your spider-sense should be tingling.

Anyone can boast about one expensive coffee on their list. Those of us who believe in transparency in coffee disclose the price of all the coffee we buy. 

Should I buy single origin coffee?

If you want to have a delicious learning experience, drinking single origin is a great way to go. It lets you buy coffee from one specific farmer or group and support their efforts to grow better coffee. 

The more specific, the better. The more information and the more precise it is, the better coffee is likely to be. At Rumble, we don’t just share where the coffee came from but where, possible the farmer (or farmers if it’s a group) and we even share the price we paid for the coffee as part of our Transparency Project.

Is single-origin coffee better?

It’s better in that you get the best coffee that farmers offer. 

As the roaster has paid more for it, they take special care in the roasting process and in getting it out to customers. At Rumble, we buy relatively small quantities of our singles so that we can roast and drink them while they are at their freshest. 

Coffee is a seasonal product, and different origins are in season at different times. Australian coffee roasters love winter because that’s when some of our favourite coffees arrive from Ethiopia and Kenya.

Once we’ve sold all the coffee from that origin, then that’s it till next year.

Why is single-origin coffee expensive?

Single source coffee can be more expensive than blended coffee as you are buying the best lots of coffee from farmers. They have grown and selected those coffees to get the best possible price. They might experiment with new processes and fermentations involving lots of extra labour. 

All this extra labour adds to the cost.

We value green or unroasted coffee on how good it cups (the word coffee people use to describe how they taste and assess coffee) and the higher it scores, the higher the price.

What is the best single-origin coffee?

Best is always subjective. The best and most expensive coffee is usually a varietal called Geisha (or gesha) that wins many awards each year and features in all the barista competitions. Geishas are fruity, floral and extremely complex. And you might not like them. 

The coffee industry prizes geishas and other high priced single-origin coffees for their unique taste. They can amaze and astound and even change your life, but they can also be challenging. You don’t always want to wake up and drink a cup so complex that you need to analyse its flavours. 

You might prefer a smooth chocolate number from Brazil. And drinking singles is the best way to learn what you like.

A note here on flavour notes. We use these on our coffees to describe how they taste. That does not mean that we added these flavours to our coffees. 

If you see a bag of Colombian coffee from Rumble and it says Orange, Nectarine and Caramel. Those are the flavours we picked up when cupping or tasting the coffee. We haven’t added caramel to the coffee. 

The beauty of single origins is that you can pick out their unique characteristics and learn what to expect from a coffee growing region. You’ll see that nutty coffees often come from Brazil and that exceptional Kenyan coffees can taste like blackcurrant.

How do I choose a single-origin coffee?

Start by looking at a coffee you like already, a bag you have at home or the coffee used in your favourite cafe. See if there are any flavour notes or descriptors on the bag and then look for them in other coffees.

Talk to your barista. Ask what their favourite coffee is and why. Then try it and see what you think.

Visit a roastery. Our espresso bar at our roastery is open to the public from Monday to Friday and we serve a full range of our coffee. We stock the shelves with our freshest roasts and you can see (and smell!) the coffee being roasted. Our baristas love to help you select a coffee that suits you.

Search online. There is more amazing coffee sold online than ever before. We update our website weekly with our latest single origins, espresso blends and filter roasts.

Lastly, drink lots of coffee!

Joseph Molloy
Joseph Molloy


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