Coffee terminology got you confused? Here’s when to choose single origin, single estate, or something else for your next cup.
Britain has fully embraced freshly roast and ground coffee in recent years. While our consumption is nowhere near the Finns’ (12 kilos per person per year), and we don’t even make the Top Ten of world coffee drinking countries (got to save some room for tea), we’re still enjoying two cups of coffee a day on average, all the while hunting out better quality beans.
But how do you know what better quality coffee is? Should you be looking for a single estate or single origin coffee? What is a coffee blend and how do you know you’re buying a good one?
What is single origin coffee?
‘Single origin’ is an evocative term, for sure – that’s why coffee roasters all over the world love to use it!
It suggests one location, a quaint one at that. But in truth the term single origin means nothing more than that, the coffee beans in the pack have all come from the same country. Not the same farm, or even the same region.
Let’s take Brazil as an example. The country has 14 major coffee growing regions, spread across seven states. It’s entirely possible that a ‘single origin’ coffee from Brazil could contain, say, ten different coffees from ten different coffee growing regions of the country.
Even so, you could expect your single origin Brazilian coffee to have lovely nutty, caramel and chocolate notes, a soft body and low acidity – wonderful, if that’s what you’re looking for.
But maybe you’d prefer something full-bodied, or with citrus flavours; perhaps Kenyan coffee is more your thing, or you like a high-acidity Italian-style dark roast (which might contain beans from Ethiopia and Vietnam). What’s best or better is entirely subjective and a matter of personal taste.
So there’s no doubt single origin coffees can be marvellous, but the purpose of the term on the pack is simply to distinguish coffees in which the beans all come from one country, from coffee blends, which are produced from beans grown in two or more different countries. That’s all.
Is single estate coffee better?
It’s all too easy to romanticise the term ‘single estate’ as well. It does mean the coffee was grown on a single farm or estate. However, it does not mean the coffee was grown on a small farm.
Coffee estates come in all shapes and sizes. In South America, for instance, there are coffee farms as big as Wales.
Some people may find it reassuring that the coffee they are drinking comes from a single named estate, but it’s worth noting too that all speciality coffee beans – whether single estate, single origin, or the beans used in blends – are fully traceable and have been for decades.
Is single estate coffee better than other coffee? No. As we’ve already said, the best coffee is the one you most like the taste of. However, to experience coffee at its best, you want one that’s also freshly roasted and, crucially, suits the machine in which you’re going to make it.
When to choose single estate coffee
You could take the finest single estate coffee in the world and put it through an espresso machine and find the result undrinkable. Most single estate coffees are best appreciated with filter and drip brewing methods, both of which produce amazing, delicious coffee.
And while aficionados revel in the distinctive flavours of single estate beans, bear in mind those distinctive tastes can also divide opinion. If you’re making coffee for a crowd or serving it in the workplace, you want something that’s going to please a lot of people.
While many single estate beans won’t taste good as a short black espresso, one exception is Roast & Ground’s single estate 9-to-5 coffee from Brazilian sustainable farm Daterra. We chose it precisely because its crowd-pleasing, easy-drinking sweetness suits a variety of preparation methods, including bean-to-cup machines.
What is the best blend of coffee?
It’s a myth that coffee blends are by definition inferior to single estate coffees. True, some brands create their coffee blends to suit a (low) price point, but many coffee blends are designed to be rich, satisfying, complex full-bodied flavour experiences.
Again, it’s a matter of personal taste, whether the coffee was freshly roast and ground, and how you plan to make the coffee. Also, it’s worth remembering that even the most exquisite coffee blend can be wasted on an inexperienced barista, yet be a form of art in the hands of a barista champion.
At Roast & Ground, we’ve been fine-tuning our range for over 20 years, in line with the experience and feedback we’ve gained by providing coffee to people and businesses who need it to taste great all day, every day.
Naturally, we have coffees to suit all tastes and all our machines, from our complex high-grade Borough Blend – an eye-opener made with beans from Africa, Indonesia and Central America – to the creamy, chocolatey flavours of the appropriately named Molten Toffee, which blends Fairtrade beans from India and Brazil.
The right coffee, in the right machine, in the right place
We believe how a coffee performs in your machine is paramount. We want you to enjoy excellent coffee day after day, regardless of who is making it, and regardless of whether you prefer a single estate, single origin or a coffee blend.
“With people everywhere more discerning about coffee today, it’s harder to satisfy all tastes with one variety,” says Roast & Ground Joint MD Catherine Gray.
“The good news is that many of our workplace coffee machines have the option of a second grinder. You could, for example, have one coffee that’s a medium dark roast (such as Powwow) and another that’s more elegant in style – say, our single origin Colombian coffee Pick Me Up.”
You can rest assured, too, that all Roast & Ground coffees are carefully and sustainably sourced, and that we have good long-term relationships with each and every supplier.
Looking for the best workplace coffee?
Not sure where to start? Book a chat with one of our team, who’ll help gauge your specific requirements and organise for you to taste some of our delicious coffees.
Contact Roast & Ground today for expert advice on choosing the perfect coffee.