At The Coffee Ethic, our coffee blends are a dynamic mixture of beans from all around the world. Our “Single Origin” coffees, however, showcase the terroir and nuance of a single country. We want to elucidate the factors that create our single origin, or “S.O.” flavor and experience – every aspect that affects the cup.
Diverse is an understatement. Coffee is a fruit – it comes in different varietals, origins and processes, (plus many other factors!) all of which affect the overall flavor of the coffee. Our “S.O.” program aims to showcase those flavors and elevate our customers’ experience with a little knowledge.
Single origin coffees are curated from specific terroir. No soil is the same in terms of the minerals and nutrients available to the plant. Just like Bordeaux and Burgundy wines’ flavor is dictated much from location, the same is true with coffee. This can give some insight into the flavor profile and potential of coffees. Many Ethiopian coffees, for example, yield intense floral, tea and berry flavors. Kenya, though Ethiopia’s neighbor to the South, can have wildly different results: bright lemon, savory notes and round grape.
On our coffee bags, we list the elevation. Higher elevations mean cooler, more temperate temperatures. This allows the coffee to be grown more slowly and concentrate its nutrients. Higher altitudes can mean stronger flavor vibrancy.
These tasting notes aren’t set in stone, however, as coffee comes in different varietals. For example, with apples, we expect varying textures, sweetness and acidities from different varieties (fuji, granny smith etc.) Coffee is the same. Bourbon, Caturra, and (famously) Gesha coffees are just a few of the many coffee varieties. Different plots, varietals and plants are used, depending on the structure of the farm/co-op.
After the coffee is picked, the next step on its journey is processing. Coffee beans, as we know them, are actually seeds inside a fruit which we call a coffee cherry. There are several different processes used to remove the seeds from the coffee cherry and each affect the flavor in unique ways. The skin, pulp, and mucilage can be removed immediately after picking, often through the use of fermentation tanks (washed process). Alternatively, the entire coffee cherry can be left out on patios or drying beds to separate the seed from the pulp (natural process). In the middle of these two processes are pulp-natural/honey process where the cherries are pulped but skip the fermentation tanks. Instead, the sticky mucilage (also referred to as “honey”) is left on and the coffee laid out to dry. Washed coffees are often bright and clean, where naturals are often heavy and deeply fruity, sometimes like jam. Honey coffees fit again in the middle with syrup-like body and rounded acidity.
Process style has often been dictated by necessity or tradition but as the speciality coffee industry grows, more and more producers are experimenting with different techniques. Even small details like how often coffee is rotated on drying beds or unique fermentation recipes can completely change the final product.
Keeping track of all these details requires the producers to remain diligent throughout the entire process. Great coffee doesn’t happen by accident. We try to honor the hard work put in by paying premium prices and giving recognition to the producers on our bags and website. In our shop, we offer these selections brewed to order to present the coffee the best way we possibly can.
When we’re selecting coffees for our single origin program, we’re looking for groundbreaking flavors, incredible stories and vision that aligns with our own. When you have time to sit down and meditate on the cup, or are looking for a unique experience, S.O. coffees are for you. A little knowledge will make for even more enjoyment.
Photo by Jesse Peters, Barista