Contrary to what some suggest, there is no one “coffee” taste. Rather, there are endless taste based on geography.
Single origin coffees are beans that are sourced from a coffee farm, cooperative or region. These coffees differ from blends which are a combination of beans from different regions or countries.
Similarly, to the wine industry, single origin coffees offer a distinctive taste based on where the coffee is grown, factors including soil, climate, and processing method all affect the taste. In the wine industry, this is referred to by the French word terroir, the taste of place.
Coffee shares many similarities to the wine industry. Like the definition above, coffee can be impacted by environmental changes and the taste can change year over year.
The taste of coffee can also be impacted by how the coffee producer processes their crop after the harvest. For instance, Costa Rica is known for their honey processed coffees, Sumatra for giling basah, and Kenya for washed coffees.
We will use the Coffee Flavor Tasters Wheel to discuss flavor in the coffee industry. The goal of this Tasters Wheel is to help create a tool that coffee roasters, importers and producers could use to discuss and evaluate coffee.
Single origins provide a great opportunity to compare the unique characteristics of coffee from around the world. Look for single origin coffees that have been roasted as a medium roast as that roast style highlights the uniqueness in the coffee.
We have outlined some of the broad characteristics of coffee depending on where coffee is grown. Each region, however, does have a wide variety of tastes which is why we are presenting two coffees in each regional category for comparison.
Pleasant acidity and full rounded body. Often described with wine and fruit notes.
Ethiopian Harrar: Wine-like fragrance, hints of blueberry
Tanzanian Peaberry: Bright, smooth, sweet, delicate
Smooth and well balanced. Chocolate or caramel notes are often present.
Guatemala Antigua (Central America): creamy, smooth, caramel
Organic Peruvian (South America): Light bodied, flavorful, elegant
Full body, earthy with herbal characteristics. These are some of the most distinct coffees.
Sumatran Mandheling (Indonesia): Earthy, full bodied, distinct
Java Estate (Indonesia): Lively, rich, malt, sweet
If you would like to explore the taste possibilities in coffee, we would recommend trying different single origin coffees.