Have you ever walked into a café, looked at the brew on offer, and wondered why in the world it’s being touted as “single origin”? I mean, what does that actually mean? Why is it important? Should you even care?
While you’re not alone in feeling like that, yes, that label is important. Read on as Perfect Daily Grind demystifies coffee labels and café menus around the world. We’ll take a quick look at why it’s important, what’s pushed it into the spotlight, and give you a few tips for confidently putting your newfound knowledge to use.
你不是少數這樣想的人，單品咖啡的意義重大，Perfect Daily Grind這網站介紹了世界各地許多的咖啡及咖啡店，而在此文我們來快速探討單品的重要性，給大家可以學以致用的知識。
Single Origin, Single Estate, Single Farm: What Do They All Mean?
Single origin is a small phrase with a big definition. The meaning’s often simplified to a coffee that’s sourced from one single producer, crop, or region in one country. Single farm and single estate mean that the coffee is sourced from one farm, mill, or co-operative. Then you can go a step further and find coffee labels that tell you the estate name, the specific lot or paddock the coffee was grown on, or if it’s a microlot (a specific varietal from a specific farm).
Yet this isn’t all that single origin means. As SCAE’s Andra Vlaicu says:
“The most important thing about single origin is its traceability, the fact that you know exactly where your coffee is from and that it’s a specific coffee, not a blend. Usually of a higher quality, it’s the acknowledgment that the coffee is from a particular farm located in a unique setting, whilst its flavour depicts its origin, possessing characteristics of that specific area where the particular coffee was grown.”
So that’s why third wave coffee loves single origins – they’re all about a deeper understanding of your coffee’s profile and how that profile is affected by what goes on at origin.
The Increasing Popularity of Single Origin
So how did single origins enter “mainstream” vocabulary? Well, according to Jeremy Torz, founder and managing director at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, the current interest in them has been influenced by an increase in the number of specialty cafés offering alternative brew methods such as pour overs and AeroPresses. “Other coffees can be offered without compromising the core espresso offer, and these coffees have then migrated into the world of espresso,” he says. “Given the fast pace of our industry and the desire amongst baristas to constantly experiment and innovate, it’s no surprise that many in our industry are now prepared to ignore convention as we look to reinvent the coffee experience for the 21st Century.”
所以單品咖啡如何躋身主流？根據Union Hand-Roasted Coffee創辦人兼總經理Jeremy Torz所說，大家對咖啡的愛好，是因為精品咖啡店數量增加，而這些店提供像手沖或愛樂壓這些不同的沖煮方式。「可以在不犧牲咖啡核心價值的情況下提供其他咖啡，同時這些咖啡都被移轉到咖啡的世界。基於這個行業瞬息萬變的特性，和咖啡師渴望不斷實驗及創新的精神，不意外許多業內人準備跳脫傳統，讓我們期待21世紀重塑後的咖啡所帶來的體驗。」
Single origins appear to be particularly popular because of their traceability. Andrew Hetzel from Cafe Makers Coffee Consultants explains, “Educated consumers that I have encountered are looking for guidance: help interpreting and communicating the complex tastes and sensations that they experience from good coffees. Most consumers are not educated and have no interest in becoming educated, but can be subtly guided to better quality coffees. The accompanying information a roaster or retailer provides is extremely helpful, describing its source (the farm, land, people, climate, cultivar, processing and so on) in as much detail as possible.”
In a coffee movement that’s fascinated by increased transparency and innovative methods, it’s no surprise that single origins are proving popular.
單品咖啡似乎是因為來源的可追溯性而受歡迎，Café Makers Coffee Consultants的Andrew Hetzel說：「我遇到的這些被教育過的消費者，都正在尋找新的風味咖啡，來幫助他們從好咖啡的體驗中，探索這些多元風味的體驗及感覺。大多數消費者沒有被教育也沒有興趣被教育，但卻可以用巧妙的方式引導他們嘗試好咖啡。這些由烘豆師或零售商提供的資訊很有幫助，資訊說明了咖啡豆的來源（莊園、土地、農民、氣候、品種、處理法等等），越詳細越好。
Demand for Single Origins Drives Changes at Origin
So what effect has the increasing popularity of single origins had on production?
It turns out that we’re a big enough market force to affect farming methods. Certain farmers (labelled specialty farmers) are developing and improving high-quality crops in response to our demand. Some experiment with their selection of varietals or cultivars, the control they have over the growth stage, the harvesting times and techniques, and the milling and the processing methods.
Direct Trade Increases Coffee Quality
These experiments would never have occurred without direct trade. We’ve seen far greater communication between roasters and farmers, crucial for the pursuit of higher-quality coffee. Producers count on roasters to inform them about market trends while specialty roasters, who are always looking for an exciting new single origin to showcase, can now locate producers easily and learn from them.
Origin visits, increasingly more commonplace, provide a wealth of knowledge for roasters and green bean buyers. In fact, it’s becoming rare to find a specialty roaster without a first hand, detailed understanding of the impact of farming and processing on their beans. Growers, buyers, and roasters cup on the farm side by side, sometimes up to a whopping 100 coffees in a day, to compare processing profiles and their cupping scoresheets – and as both information and coffee are traded, the consumer can notice an increase in the sophistication of the coffees available.
Yet it’s not just the producers and roasters in this relationship – the end consumer also plays a part. How? By acknowledging the superior quality of the coffee. According to Jorge Raul Rivera, Vice President of J. Raul Rivera S.A de C.V and representative of Finca Santa Rosa, El Salvador:
然而不只是農民與烘豆師，終端消費者也在當中佔了一角。為什麼?因為最後接受高品質咖啡的人是消費者。根據J. Raul Rivera S.A de C.V的副總裁，兼薩爾瓦多Finca Santa Rosa莊園的代表Jorge Raul Rivera說：
“The customer is able to appreciate all the hard work in one year’s harvest and it also encourages a farmer to work harder and show off his hard work through an amazing coffee experience for the consumer. It is also empowering because if the farmer delivers excellence and the end customer then continues to demand that quality, the roaster is compelled to pay the farmer a fair price for his product.”
So next time you order a specialty coffee, remember that you’re playing a role in the pursuit of higher-quality products and ethical business practices. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it?
How Does the Industry Measure Coffee Quality?
So we’ve established that single origin usually means good coffee, and that demand for this coffee in combination with direct trade has led to an increase in both the quality and availability of specialty coffee – but how do we know that a coffee is good quality? After all, single origin doesn’t have to mean good.
Well, that’s where industry evaluation systems come into play. These globally respected systems (think Cup of Excellence or Coffee Quality Institute Q) measure the quality of coffees, among which single origins, single estates, and microlots are predominant. These systems don’t just guide consumers in purchasing coffee; they also incentivize the constant pursuit of higher-quality beans. As producers and roasters then use these systems in their marketing, producing excellent coffee has a considerable financial reward.
The three main systems in use are Cup of Excellence, Coffee Quality Institute Q, and Coffee Review. The Cup of Excellence competition, which acknowledges the quality and care in production of specialized, rare lots, is considered the highest form of recognition in the specialty industry. The Coffee Quality Institute Q system adheres to SCAA’s standards and evaluates, at the producer and farm level, the categories of fine Arabica, fine Robusta, and blends. Coffee Review, on the other hand, is invaluable for roasters and retailers. Arguably the world’s most widely read and influential coffee buying guide, it reviews roast profiles.
主要在使用的三大系統為卓越盃CoE、咖啡品質鑑定機構Q，以及Coffee Review。卓越盃競賽，是在評估這些專業化生產且具品質的稀有批次咖啡，這是在精品咖啡界中最具辨識度的評鑑。咖啡品質鑑定機構Q的系統遵循SCAA(美國精品咖啡協會)的標準，從生產者及種植階段的評估，種類涵蓋精品阿拉比卡、精品羅布斯塔及配方豆等。Coffee Review在另一方面，可說是世上最廣為人知且具影響力的咖啡購買指引，對烘豆師及零售商是非常寶貴的，並且可以呈現出烘豆的完整履歷。
Yet how do they judge a coffee’s quality? Isn’t coffee both subjective and subject to bias? Well, yes – but these systems do their best to quantify the coffee quality and remove potential subconscious biases. They typically use blind cupping and the 100 point review system, and while the criteria might differ slightly within each systems, you’ll normally find that they follow the descriptive categories coffee professionals use on tasting scoresheets.