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Most likely discovered in the verdant mountains of Ethiopia and spread around the world by smugglers, spies, and sneaky coffee lovers, the humble Coffea Arabica tree has blanketed the equatorial lands with countless varieties, both man-made and spontaneously occurring.

These days, coffee producers from Yemen to Panama labor to bring forth from their own soil a unique flavor that will make an impression on a massive, churning world market. And just when we coffee drinkers start to expect a particular region’s beans to taste a certain way, something shifts among the countless variables, and our expectations are redefined.

Single origin, defined

Simply put, the label “single origin” means that your cup of coffee came from just one country, not several.

From elevation to climate to growing and processing practices, each country has its own complex set of environmental factors influencing how its coffee tastes. When you drink a single origin coffee, you’re tasting the shade trees, the soil, and the care that coaxed the trees to produce their best flavors. Tasting, liking, disliking and exploring coffees (something your Brew Log makes simple) is a way of honoring the people and cultures that produced them.

Coffee farmer Timoteo Minas on his farm in San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala. (See Guatemala Timoteo's Microlot from Nossa Familia Coffee.)

From single origin to single estate

Over the past twenty years, single origin has become a much more nuanced term. Where once it described a single country, now we seek single district, single farm, and even single genetic variety.

When we recognize that every cup of coffee we drink has been loved long before it reached us, the natural progression is to trace the connections as far back as we can to make sure everyone is treated with justice. We become acquainted with coffee farmers, many of whom are multi-generational owners or laborers on the same land their grandparents once tended. The current generation is seeking modern ways to carry on their parents’ legacies.

Men carrying coffee bags at Finca La Morelia in Colombia's Quindio region. (See Colombia La Morelia from Karlacá Coffee.)

Single origin vs. blends

Single origin coffee isn’t better than a blend. Blends are legit, and coffee is an intensely personal thing. But enjoying single origin coffees helps confirm our intention to be thoughtful coffee drinkers, thoughtful humans who grasp where we fit in the value chain while expanding our horizons beyond the concept of homogenous blends.

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