An Aside: The Types of Single Origin Coffees

Posted on Mar 22, 2012

An Aside: The Types of Single Origin Coffees

The section on Central America is a good opportunity for us to address a potential point of confusion to those new to single origin coffee: the difference between single origin coffee and micro-lot coffee. Because Central America is just a small strip of land compared to some of the bigger coffee-producing areas (like Africa and South America), you’ll often see these differences mentioned when single origin Central American coffee is brought up.

Let’s start with some definitions.

  • Single Origin Coffee: You’re already aware of what this was, or else our introduction and subsequent sections have failed you! Single origin coffee is coffee that comes from a specific place – generally, it refers to regions of a country (as in the case of Ethiopian Harar, for example).
  • Estate Coffee: This is still coffee of a single origin, but with a specific single origin, such as one estate or one farm. The Legetet Estate in Kenya is a good example of an estate coffee we’ve already encountered here. Estate coffees may also refer to coffees grown over a series of estates, however, which leads us to…
  • Micro-Lot Coffee: This is coffee that is traceable to a single farm, a specific altitude range, and a specific time in which the coffee was harvested. In essence, “Micro-Lot” is the purest version of single origin coffee you can find – unless you have a specific tree picked out from a Micro Lot!

In the definitions above, each type of coffee is a subset of the definition above it. Micro-Lot coffee is a type of Estate Coffee, which is a type of Single Origin coffee. They are all single origin coffees, which is an important fact to keep in mind especially as you see the terms used interchangeably throughout this guide.