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Thread: Your definition of "Single Origin"

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    Your definition of "Single Origin"

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    I have noticed some slight variation in the public & industry definition of "Single Origin". I am curious to see where the the Coffee Snobbers consider that defining point where a coffee can be classified as "Single Origin".

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    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    I was thinking about this the other day. I have always thought it was from the one Estate but it could also be the same region.

    Could a bean labeled as Dom. Republic Bouqueron Co-op or El Salvador Calderon Co-op (I think I have these names right) be considered SO as they come from several farmers? Or should they be correctly called a pre-roast blend?

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Good question...
    Having never thought about all the implications, I had previously considered a single origin to be more or less at the level of which country it came from, eg Brazil, PNG, etc, but now that you raise the issue, there are, or can be, *significant variations in the beans from various regions of one country, and I was probably really thinking provincial level.
    At the provincial level, unless there had been deliberate efforts to mix varieties of cultivar when planting I would be reasonably comfortable with calling that a SO. *

    So now I can go and put a vote in the poll.

    Bullitt

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    Senior Member Koffee_Kosmo's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    I view (SO) single origin as
    Country first followed by a particular region in that country

    Growing coffee is not like a production line with an expected outcome

    One year to the next could be different due to climate and other growing conditions
    This affects flavour slightly from season to season

    KK


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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    We tend to use the term as referring to a region (or provence) within a country. For the coffee that we have, it also means the one co-operative (but one assumes at co-ops are not spread over larger regions anyway).

    So the coffee we would get is all from a particular regions, some we refer to as SINGLE ORIGIN BLENDS (which have differently processed coffees from the same co-op) or as SINGLE ORIGIN (which are from the same batch) --- but surely the latter definition of single origin could be referred to as a SINGLE ESTATE coffee?

    I would have thought that labelling a blend or single coffee from the same COUNTRY as single origin is a bit vague. It is what Moccona does with there 100% Single Origin Columbia "Reserve" Instant bollocks!

    The value in defining an origin taste from all of Columbia or all of Brazil or all of Vietnam is somewhat useless these days. As Kosmo says, the variations in different parts of the country varies each season. So surely single origin country is just marketing bollocks? No?

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    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"


    (I spliced the poll and thread together) ;)

    I view origin as a fairly generic descriptor for country as in "country of origin" as opposed to anything more specific but agree it is often used to describe a region or a farm.

    A wise coffee farmer once told me:
    "Coffee comes from farms, not from origins"

    He was talking about coffee getting lumped into a country style where in actual fact coffee from just a kilometer away might be grown, processed and farmed entirely differently and be totally different in the cup.

    I know of many coffee estates that produce vastly different coffees so origin is little more than pointer on the globe. For me, its more important to understand how a particular coffee performs in the cup regardless of its provenance.

    In fact, provenance is really the term that origin is used for and can be specific or vauge (planet, hemisphere, country, region, town, farm or row of coffee trees).


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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    I have to agree with you Andy. I would also like to add to the list date of harvest, I currently have samples from 3 neighbouring farms in a region with coffee harvested in 3 seperate fortnights harvests periods. This could also be lot numbers.

    I believe the depth of info on the label depends on the coffee companies level of commitment to consumer education. I used to label estate coffees by country because it was easier than having to explain the label to 100s of customers. If you are interested in the finer details you could always read the descriptions we had.

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    I think that the currently accepted definition is more or less coffee that is offered to roasters as a distinct lot never containing coffee from more than one country and bearing some identifying name in addition to the country name that is reflective of where it comes from.

    Once you start to scratch the surface, there is a huge amount of variability brought about by, as people have mentioned, the very diverse ways in which coffee farming is structured. For example:

    *At the top end of the scale, some of the Brazilian companies produce more coffee than the entire production of some countries and their coffee is often identified as Brazil Companyname.
    *Farmers pooling their coffee together will generally market their coffee under their cooperative name as Countryname Coopname.
    *Im not too sure, but I have heard that exporters blend coffee together as well to achieve a flavour profile, so that could be called anything.
    *Farmers selling their coffee themselves will use their farm name.
    *Some farmers split up different areas in their farms.

    (Incidentally, one definition of the often-used word "estate" that I have seen in coffee is a farm that processes its own coffee. Under this definition, coffee from a coop is not "estate" coffee. This could be an important point because, as Andy often points out, cooperatives blend the coffee available to them and, so, you would expect it to be mediocre - because the best lots arent kept separate. Thats not to say that coffee from an "estate" is by definition better.)

    In the above examples, I have tried to stick only to names that tell you about where the coffee came from, as thats what the "origin" part of the phrase "single origin" seems to mean. Of course, the identification of the origin of the coffee is often accompanied by additional information, which, strictly speaking, has nothing to do with the origin of the coffee. Whether or not that information is technically part of the meaning of the phrase "single origin" is like asking how many angles fit on the head of a pin - semantics arent going to get us better tasting coffee! Three of these bits of information that I would love to see made available to the public whenever the roaster has them are:
    *cultivar;
    *processing method; and
    *harvest date.

    These bits of information are important if we want people to appreciate that different coffees taste different and that its worthwhile paying more money for better coffee - hopefully with some of it trickling down to the farmer. I know that wine gets trotted out all the time as an analogy, but let me do it again - would it really be possible for good wine to give decent returns to the supply chain participants who put in the most work and (hopefully consequently) produce the best product if wine were only sold as "white" and "red"?

    As is often the case, there is a lot more to explore on this subject, but Ill leave it at that for now ...

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    CoffeeSnobs Owner Andy's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 38213735540 link=1246420042/7#7 date=1246538161
    "estate" that I have seen in coffee is a farm that processes its own coffee
    Slightly off topic but I would argue that coffee grown on a single farm would be estate coffee even if they get someone else to mill/process/market it. As long as its kept in its farm-lot and not later blended then it would still be classed as estate coffee.

    Quote Originally Posted by 38213735540 link=1246420042/7#7 date=1246538161
    Thats not to say that coffee from an "estate" is by definition better.
    ...but it will have a better known provenance.

    (just to bring us back on topic)

    :)

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    so do we have to start referring to "single estate", "single co-op" and "single origin" coffee now? damn you snobs, stop educating me. I used to be happy* with instant you know!!! :D

    *OK, not really happy, just ignorant bliss...

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Single Origin is in some ways meaningless as has been pointed out above. The Aussie MTE coffees are a good example of these, single point of origin but a wide array of flavour profiles.

    My thinking is that for a bean to be single origin it must satisfy a few basic criteria.

    Grown in the same general locality and similar conditions be it the same valley/region and or altitude/soil type also from the same type of varietal. That way all of the beans should be of a similar flavour profile if processed the same otherwise it is just a pre roasted blend to arrive at a given profile.

    The question is then is the term Single Origin misused? In a lot of cases YES.

    If you like it then drink it regardless of S.O. correctness 8-)

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Cant Single Origin just mean "not a blend"?
    Thats all the average (not coffee snob) would take it to mean and how I explain it to them.

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    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 0539243F353423363E35510 link=1246420042/11#11 date=1246671880
    Cant Single Origin just mean "not a blend"?
    Then how do define a blend - Im sure this has been the subject of another thread at sometiume? Beans from different origins mixed together? Then would E. Yirg + E. Harrar + E. Gambella be a blend or SO?

    I agree with BFs point about how it tastes being all that is important.

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 7B716473737C686E1D0 link=1246420042/12#12 date=1246685938
    Then how do define a blend - Im sure this has been the subject of another thread at sometiume? Beans from different origins mixed together? Then would E. Yirg + E. Harrar + E. Gambella be a blend or SO?
    Blend.

    Quote Originally Posted by 7B716473737C686E1D0 link=1246420042/12#12 date=1246685938
    I agree with BFs point about how it tastes being all that is important.
    Different topic.

  15. #15
    Senior Member flynnaus's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 132F3229232235202823470 link=1246420042/13#13 date=1246692919
    Blend.
    Sorry - you dont get off that easy. You didnt answer the first part of that question.

    So El Salvador Calderon Co-op, sold ostensibly as a SO, is actually farm A + farm B + farm c. Blend or SO?

    By definition from other posts in this thread it is legitimately a SO but by your logic it would be a blend. So what is a blend?

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    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    If we want to be REALLY PICKY, then "single origin" could be from only one bush!

    However, my version is that single origin needs to be true to the name/label. I.e.--if the label is SO Ethiopian, then all that coffee has to be from Ethiopia, if the label is SO Dada Estate, then all that coffee has to be from the Dada Estate.

    A blend should also be true to the label--Ethiopian Yirgacheffe/Java needs to have coffee from Yirgacheffe and from the island of Java, and only those.

    Simple.

    Greg

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    Mal Dimal's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Certainly open to a lot of interpretation.... :P

    Anyway, in the past Ive always considered an S.O. to be from a Single Estate/Co-Op. Sometimes from a single Processor within a small region of small plot farmers (lots of PNG coffee is designated this way). Usually though, since I get the vast majority of my green from Andy, an S.O. is mostly coffee roasted from a single crop of the same bean(s) delivered under the same name in 1-4 bags.

    A lot of Yemeni coffee is regional with an awful lot of the coffee growing wild in small gullies shielded from the direct effects of the sun and wind with crops being harvested by traditional owners of the land. Heaps of Ethiopian coffee is like this too from what Ive been able to research. I think for now though, Ill stick to the principle of "One Bag with a single bean description = Single Origin" when bought from BeanBay... ;)

    Mal.

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 73796C7B7B746066150 link=1246420042/14#14 date=1246694902
    Sorry - you dont get off that easy. You didnt answer the first part of that question.
    I like Gregs answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by 52677072427A6778747971150 link=1246420042/15#15 date=1246696882
    However, my version is that single origin needs to be true to the name/label. I.e.--if the label is SO Ethiopian, then all that coffee has to be from Ethiopia, if the label is SO Dada Estate, then all that coffee has to be from the Dada Estate.

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Okay so it seems "origin" is the ambiguos word here. Generally its usage is appropriated to mean "country" "region" or "estate". The poll seems to indicate the lowest in the hierachy which is the Farm/Estate level. So it makes "Single Origin" a worthless marketing phrase that makes consumers feel all warm, fuzzy and elite. Sweet.

    Hey Luca, how detailed are you talking with the harvest date? Year, Month or Day?

  20. #20
    Senior Member Rusty's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Maybe well get to the stage where coffee is classified like wine. Country - Provence - Farm and vintage, and lastly Producer.

    Any takers *::)

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 517C6D7D6B6C7F1E0 link=1246420042/18#18 date=1247121479
    Okay so it seems "origin" is the ambiguos word here. Generally its usage is appropriated to mean "country" "region" or "estate". The poll seems to indicate the lowest in the hierachy which is the Farm/Estate level. So it makes "Single Origin" a worthless marketing phrase that makes consumers feel all warm, fuzzy and elite. Sweet.
    Good thoughts. *Part of the problem, as you would know, is that sometimes you simply dont get much information from brokers (who themselves might not have been provided any more information from exporters). *Generally, I would like to see consumers getting more or less as much information as the roaster can give, so that the consumer can decide what to do with it. *Those that are enthusiastic about it will be able to make better purchasing decisions, whilst those that arent interested can simply ignore it. *

    One problem with providing lots of information for roasters, though, is that if they put lots of effort into finding a particular coffee that is incredible and then describe it as best they can, other roasters can come along and track it down without doing the hard yards - effectively free riding on the effort of the first roaster. *Theres also another free-rider problem for consumers; roasters that do great coffee and put up a lot of information about it help to create an association between great coffee and lots of information. *That opens it up for roasters with lesser quality coffee to simply trot out all of the information that they have about it to create the impression in consumers minds that their coffee is actually better quality than it is. *All coffee comes from a particular place, was grown by a particular producer, consists of coffee of a particular varietal or varietals and was harvested at a particular time. *The ability to put names to all of those things doesnt mean that the coffee necessarily tastes any better. *These two problems are difficult ones for anyone who values high quality coffee.

    Quote Originally Posted by 517C6D7D6B6C7F1E0 link=1246420042/18#18 date=1247121479
    Hey Luca, how detailed are you talking with the harvest date? Year, Month or Day?
    Before responding any further to that, Ill point out that harvest date has nothing to do with origin

    I guess that my knee-jerk reaction to this one is that Im not very interested in past crop coffee and seeing as most green coffee comes with a year on the bag, Id like to know what that year is. *Owing to difficulties in selling coffee and, perhaps, for price valorization schemes, there is actually green coffee on the market that is a few or even several years old. *This year, Colombias harvest is down and coffee from that country is harder to get a hold of than before. *I would think that this would make it more likely that people would try to sell Colombian coffee that is past its prime and, so, as a consumer I would be particularly interested to know when a roasters Colombian coffee was harvested if I were shopping for it now. *All of that said, there are always exceptions to rules. *I remember speaking to a very highly regarded coffee importer who thought that the then current Kenyan crops were inferior to the then past seasons, so he was offering both to his customers so that they could decide. *(Theres your "vintage" concept, Rusty!)

    The harvest date can also provide additional information relevant to quality. *For example, to account for the fact that cherries on the same tree ripen at different rates, some farms harvest in multiple passes. *On the last pass, all of the remaining cherries are harvested (strip-picked). *If that last lot is sold as a distinct lot, it is probably going to give an inferior cup to the other coffee from that farm, even though it would be correct to identify it to the consumer as coming from that farm. *In some countries, such as Colombia and Kenya, there are two harvests - a main one and a smaller one. *Sometimes one offers coffee that is distinctly worse than the other (I have heard the phrase fly crop used). *Again, this coffee is still correctly identified as coming from a place that might have acquired a particularly good reputation, but it still cups up badly. *Some robusta varietals even produce cherries that ripen and are harvested year-round!

    I guess that the impact of the information age on the coffee trade is that we are starting to be able to find out more and more about what we are drinking. *The challenge will be to relate this information to what we are tasting in the cup and to screen out the irrelevant or misleading marketing buzz.

    And theres still more information to come - Im sure that a few people on this site have been to some of the cuppings exploring different fermentation times that people have been running!

    Cheers,

    Luca

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 1925382329283F2A22294D0 link=1246420042/17#17 date=1246722866
    I like Gregs answer.

    Quote Originally Posted by 52677072427A6778747971150 link=1246420042/15#15 date=1246696882
    However, my version is that single origin needs to be true to the name/label. I.e.--if the label is SO Ethiopian, then all that coffee has to be from Ethiopia, if the label is SO Dada Estate, then all that coffee has to be from the Dada Estate. *

    Im for this as well. As long as the label is accurate, then people can determine if they want ethiopian beans from any region, ethiopian yirgacheffe beans from any farm, or ethiopian yirgacheffe farm XYZ beans from any plant.

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 66534446764E534C404D45210 link=1246420042/15#15 date=1246696882
    If we want to be REALLY PICKY, then "single origin" could be from only one bush!

    However, my version is that single origin needs to be true to the name/label. I.e.--if the label is SO Ethiopian, then all that coffee has to be from Ethiopia, if the label is SO Dada Estate, then all that coffee has to be from the Dada Estate.

    A blend should also be true to the label--Ethiopian Yirgacheffe/Java needs to have coffee from Yirgacheffe and from the island of Java, and only those.

    Simple.

    Greg
    I too like this definition. It seems to simplify things a bit.
    Quote Originally Posted by 7549544F454453464E45210 link=1246420042/11#11 date=1246671880
    Cant Single Origin just mean "not a blend"?
    Thats all the average (not coffee snob) would take it to mean and how I explain it to them.
    Like this one too.

  24. #24
    Senior Member GregWormald's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Just to go a bit further (Im not sure whether its further backwards or further forwards though--maybe further sideways!) from Lucas post on information.

    When I was in the army one of my jobs was to turn "information" into "intelligence". It is important to realise that they are very different beasts. Information should have no influence on decision-making until it has been evaluated for relevance, for reliability, for usefulness, for accuracy, and more. This turns information into intelligence, which *is* useful for decision-making.

    It is one of the traps to think that more information is always better. Its only better if it contributes to better decisions, and as we know, some people are not above lying or presenting irrelevancies to influence decisions.

    The process of turning information into intelligence is now in the realm of "expert systems", it used to be the job of Military Intelligence units.

    Greg
    ex-Canadian Intelligence Corps

  25. #25
    Sleep is overrated Thundergod's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Quote Originally Posted by 5B6E797B4B736E717D70781C0 link=1246420042/23#23 date=1247313178
    Just to go a bit further (Im not sure whether its further backwards or further forwards though--maybe further sideways!) from Lucas post on information.

    When I was in the army one of my jobs was to turn "information" into "intelligence". It is important to realise that they are very different beasts. Information should have no influence on decision-making until it has been evaluated for relevance, for reliability, for usefulness, for accuracy, and more. This turns information into intelligence, which *is* useful for decision-making.

    It is one of the traps to think that more information is always better. Its only better if it contributes to better decisions, and as we know, some people are not above lying or presenting irrelevancies to influence decisions.

    The process of turning information into intelligence is now in the realm of "expert systems", it used to be the job of Military Intelligence units.

    Greg
    ex-Canadian Intelligence Corps
    Exactly the problem Im having back at work.

    Ive walked in to see reports containing a lot of "information" and I was just thinking that it needs to be culled down to "intelligence".

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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    having lived and grown surrounded by coffee estates in El Salvador, I would like to share with you guys my humble opinion on SO:

    -A single varietal coffee from a estate or farm at a particular altitude (metres above sea level) milled in a particular way, that produces a distinctive cup.

    In El Salvador, coffee is grown on volcanoes and estates owned by families can easily range from 600 masl (metres above sea level) to 2,000 masl.

    Effectively, this means that within the internal clasification of Salvadorean Coffee Council, one farmer can produce low, high or stricly high grown coffee in the one estate.

    Most farms are further sub-divided into working blocks or tablones. I know some farmers that have blocks of varietals at different altitudes...Hence coffee is harvested by these working blocks, ussually in 3 passes, the last passed is predominantly used for local consumtion... the first 2 are export only and depending the market it is exported to, it is prepared accordingly. That is done in the milling process...

    The geography of the volcano might also add different microclimates to the equation!!!!!

    More so, some families have estates in different coffee growing regions, altitudes and faces of the volcanoes, i.e: facing north, east south, etc so, to assume that for instance, Batres Estate is SO is untrue, as they have several farms in different regions, although it is all processed in the one mill, hence where its been milled adds no significance to its origin... its how its been milled.

    A more accurate descriptor is, as Luca has suggested earlier on:
    -Varietal,
    -Name of the farm
    -Altitude,
    -Milling and drying Process,
    -Preparation (bean selection)
    -Date of milling

    i.e: Pacas, Santa Marta, 1,300 masl, semi-washed, patio dryed, European preparation, March 2009


  27. #27
    Senior Member summercrema's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    I quite agree to what u say.

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    Senior Member Koffee_Kosmo's Avatar
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    Re: Your definition of "Single Origin"

    Behmor Brazen - $249 - Free Freight
    Quote Originally Posted by 25383D3E36302332383021233834253E510 link=1246420042/25#25 date=1257776873
    A more accurate descriptor is, as Luca has suggested earlier on:
    -Varietal,
    -Name of the farm
    -Altitude,
    -Milling and drying Process,
    -Preparation (bean selection)
    -Date of milling

    i.e: Pacas, Santa Marta, 1,300 masl, semi-washed, patio dryed, European preparation, March 2009
    That makes sense and its also logical

    KK



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