Should you be looking for gourmet coffee blends or single origin coffees?
It can get a little confusing, especially if you are new to brewing your own gourmet coffee.
Perhaps the simplest way to look at this is to compare it with wine.
A house wine is typically a blended wine, with grapes from various different areas, regions or even countries. But you can also choose a “single origin” wine, like a Beaujolais, which is grown in Beaujolais, an area south of Burgundy in France.
Beyond that, you can choose a wine from one particular estate or vineyard.
It’s the same with coffee.
When you buy a gourmet coffee blend it probably includes coffee beans from a variety of origins. Maybe some Colombian beans blended with others from Brazil, Costa Rica or Mexico.
If you buy a bargain blend at a lower price, you may also find some Robusta beans mixed in with the Arabica beans. The Robusta coffee beans are added because they are a lot cheaper. That’s what brings the price down.
That said, a gourmet coffee blend isn’t necessarily a compromise or “second best”. There are some coffee blends which are wonderful.
For instance, one of the oldest blends of coffee is a combination of Yemen Mocha and Java. It’s the oldest gourmet coffee blend known, because these beans were first blended at a time when they were the only two coffees being grown.
But beyond that, Mocha and Java beans complement one another. And that’s what quality blending is all about. It’s the art of matching beans with complementary strengths and qualities.
So while there may be a certain amount of snobbery among some coffee drinkers who insist on single origin beans, don’t discount a quality gourmet coffee blend.
Single origin coffees come from one region or country.
But more and more the term is being used to describe beans from much smaller regions, or even single farms.
As an example, the Greenwich Estate coffee pictured above is a single origin coffee from Jamaica. I have been there, and its a small coffee farm high in the mountains. (With an amazing view of Kingston far below, and the sea beyond.)
The gourmet coffee industry seems to be studying how wines are marketing. So now you’ll find single origin coffees from one particular farm or estate.
The fact that the beans all come from one farm is no guarantee of quality or a great taste. But there is no doubt that trying some of these coffees can be quite an adventure and will certainly broaden your knowledge of fine coffees.
About the author: Nick Usborne, aka Coffee Detective, is a writer and long-time coffee enthusiast. Read more…