Single Origin vs Blends - Which one should I choose for my cafe?
As a cafe owner or the person responsible for sourcing coffee beans for your cafe, you would be presented with a variety of coffee bean options in the market. The most common decision to make would be to choose between single origin or coffee blends. Without knowing exactly what they are or why they are created, it would be difficult to make well informed choices. Without further ado, let’s dive into it.
What is single origin?
Single origin, as the name says it all - is beans sourced from a single place. Usually, from one country or a specific region within a country. Going deeper, single origin coffee can also be traced back to its producing farm or estate.
What is coffee blend?
On the other hand, a coffee blend is a mixture of two or more single origin coffee beans. They are created by roasters with the purpose of harvesting the best qualities of individual single origin beans and blending them up to create a well-balanced cup of coffee. It is important for roasters to blend beans that do not overpower one another but work together to bring out its best flavors.
What’s good about single origin?
As we enter the third wave of coffee, consumers have grown to be more aware and seek to understand the origins of their cup of coffee. They would like to know where their coffee comes from - this is where traceability of single origin helps to satisfy the curiosity of your customers. They can learn where their coffee is grown, the condition or climate it was grown under and how the growing conditions affect coffee flavor. By educating your customers, it allows them to think and connect with the people behind their coffee, eventually leading to better appreciation of their cup of coffee.
Single origin also allows customers to taste the distinct characteristics and uniqueness of the beans. Since single origin is not mixed with other beans, its intrinsic flavor is not masked or hidden. It showcases the beans as it is, allowing consumers to taste and understand how different factors (e.g., climate, soil type, altitude, processing methods) influence coffee flavor. Generally, single origin is best suited as standalone coffee (black coffee without milk or sugar) so that its unique taste is not lost. Some cafes also offer pour over (also known as filter or drip coffee) to appeal to coffee enthusiasts.
However, it is also important to note that single origin tends to lack consistency. Coffee beans come from coffee cherry (which is a fruit). Since there is a seasonality element to fruits, we can also apply the same analogy to coffee. Single origin may taste different depending on season changes. Additionally, as coffee is a fruit, it may be affected by pests, diseases and environmental changes, thus impacting its supply.
Benefits of coffee blends
When coffee roasters create a blend, balance is one of the objectives in mind. They carefully cup and learn the characteristics of each single origin bean (e.g., level of acidity, body, flavor, aroma). By drawing out the best qualities of the beans and blending them up, it balances out the flavors of each origin and helps to complement their weaknesses. Your customers would probably not enjoy a cup of coffee that has too high acidity or is too bitter. Blends create a perfect harmony and bring about greater flavor complexity to your customers’ palate. Usually, blends are targeted for milk-based coffee as their flavour is not as overpowering as single origin, and would go well with milk.
Coffee blends also help to combat the problem of flavor inconsistency for your cafe. If seasonality causes changes to your beans, your roaster will know where to find a substitute for a particular missing note (possibly from another origin). With blends, you will have consistent flavor all year round. Also, roasters will be able to reduce the risk in supply issues if they use multiple origin beans in their blends.
As you can see, both single origin and blends have their own pros and cons. There is no right or wrong answer as everyone has their own taste preference. It all boils down to your cafe’s needs, as well as understanding your own customers’ preferences. Depending on your target customer segments, you may want to explore and experiment around to find coffee beans that best suit your cafe. There is really no one-size-fits-it-all answer. One might favour single origin if they are looking to appreciate coffee in its purest form, whereas another might prefer coffee blends if they value balance in their cup.
At First Crack Coffee Roastery, we provide both the option of single origins and coffee blends for our cafe partners. We take our time in understanding your customers’ demographics and taste preference, giving sound suggestions and flexibility in selecting your coffee beans. We can also help to create signature blends tailored for your cafe needs.