There are a variety of labels you can find on coffee. From single-origin coffee to coffee blends, each label signals a different coffee experience to the customer. But what does “blend” and “single origin” actually mean?
Coffee blends are a combination of beans from several places, while single-origin coffee comes from only one location.
What is a Coffee Blend?
Coffee blends are exactly what they sound like - several (two or more) different types of coffee blended together. Coffee roasters create blends to combine and balance the unique characteristics of multiple beans and develop flavors that aren’t present in a single origin.
What is Single Origin Coffee?
Single-origin coffee comes from a single farm/crop/region in one country. Single-origin coffee is usually advertised as exotic, unique, or special because it comes from a particular country or region. Single origins are generally preferred by coffee purists who enjoy the characteristics of single-origin beans from one specific area of the world.
People who enjoy single-origin coffee love its unique tasting notes. Since single-origin coffee is "pure," the flavor from its original location is preserved.
Why do coffee roasters create blends?
If single-origin coffee preserves the original region’s flavor, then why do blends exist? While single-origin coffees are adventurous, their flavor tends to be inconsistent in the long term as climate changes lead to changes in flavor. To combat this, roasters create blends because they are consistent in flavor and are less susceptible to seasonal changes.
Which is better? Single-origin or blends?
There is no objectively better coffee between single origin and blends. What is “better” depends on your personal preference and what you want out of your coffee experience! Some argue that a coffee blend creates something better than the sum of its parts. In contrast, others say that single-origin coffee offers the purest coffee drinking experience.
Single Origin vs Blend Characteristics
Here are the two main factors that set apart single-origin coffee from coffee blends.
The most prominent difference between single-origin and blends is their flavor. Single-origin coffee is usually brighter, featuring floral or citrusy notes, while coffee blends lean towards the chocolate, caramel, and nutty side. Single-origin coffee features flavor at its purest because it is not combined with other beans and is as unaltered as possible.
However, because it is a pure reflection of its original flavor, it is susceptible to seasonal changes, and each coffee season will vary slightly in taste. On the other hand, blends have a more balanced and homogenous flavor, and because it is a better lend of coffee, it is less susceptible to seasons and more consistent in flavor.
With blends, tracing origins is near impossible and often ambiguous. At most, roasters will include the country the blend is from, but no specific farm or producer information. On the other hand, single-origin coffee often can be traced back to a country, farm, producer, and even the lot that it was grown on. This is powerful and valuable information because it gives consumers a deeper understanding of the coffee they are drinking. It can also lead to a deeper appreciation for the farmers and workers who make the coffee. This is a large part of the third wave movement in coffee, which strives to recognize the value of coffee farms and link coffee’s roots to the consumer.