How and why micro lots matter: Why Micro-Lot Coffee is increasing with demand for fair trade and small, independent farms around the world, and how it fits into the single origin, single farm and micro lot coffees. Single Origin, Single Farm and MicroNano Lot Coffees: “Single origin” in my opinion, is one of the most important characteristics of a good coffee. The category we’ve been investigating, named for the coffees that originated in only one place, is now embracing countless coffee types and regions, making it harder and harder to pin down the one defining characteristic for a good coffee. But for me, a good coffee in its purest form is a single origin, a single farm, and a single lot coffee, or just plain old Good Good Good.
To find the single origin and single farm type, we need to start with the names we already know: Colombia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka and the rest of Africa. Or, perhaps we can go back to the original point: they are all single origin coffee.
Kenyan Coffees: This coffee is processed with an Ethiopian process called a flat brown, which provides a very good, smooth cup of coffee. It is from Ethiopia, a fertile country. It originates from the Burnt Temple. It has been growing in that fertile area since 1974, and it currently produces 70% of Ethiopia’s total coffees. On the other hand, Ethiopia is a coffee-producing country. Its best coffees come from famous farms, including Beitar Beityo and Nais. The people of Ethiopia work very hard, and produce excellent coffee for a country that is not too rich in natural resources. Kenya is a good place to start, but the difference is that Ethiopia has been traditionally producing whole coffee beans, not just coffee grounds, so its coffees can be complex, very black, and taste great. The people of Kenya, however, are farmers, not coffee producers.
A strong base of source material should be used to get an optimal brew. So, what makes single origin and micro lot coffees so much better than the big names? I discovered that while there aren’t any one-size-fits-all solutions to answering this question, there are a number of factors that contribute to the quality of the cup. For example, farming practices have a tremendous effect on the coffees that are produced from a single farm and sometimes those are the same that you use to make something as simple as a cappuccino. The result of a coffee being grown in a single location is usually superior due to the conditions of the soil, climate and terroir. Although we might not like to admit it, these factors create an even greater interaction between the farmers, the soil and the coffee.
Many farmers know which climates and soil types are ideal for producing the specific combination of coffees, whilst others simply don’t know about the climate in their area. These farmers are passionate, knowledgeable, and are often the ones that are willing to be “muddy water” on your soil, pouring heavy amounts of fertilizer and nutrients without actually thinking about the benefit that this will bring in the long term. This is all well and good, but it doesn’t work if you want to have a good cup and this is where the interaction between the farmer, the coffee, and the soil are so important. Of course, the very nature of the farmer, climate and soil combination means that not every single, high quality single origin coffee is created from a single place.
That said, a lot of farmers give a lot of thought and energy into the coffees that they produce in their area, often developing a unique environment that changes the profile of the coffee while also preserving its core essence. For example, while “single origin” coffees aren’t exactly the same, many of them have distinct “bio-fungal” profiles that are distinct to the small farms and regions within their regions. Or while the specific climate and soil combination of a particular region may not allow for a robust roast, these are generally considered as a “special” roast when compared to coffees grown elsewhere. So, rather than a single and distinctive profile being created at one farm, the more unique the conditions in which the coffee is grown and processed, the more uniform it will be from the point of view of the farmer, soil and climate.
The benefit of single origin coffees coming from multiple farms is that you’re essentially doing your part to protect and preserve the nature that created the beans and then drink the cup of coffee produced by those same beans. This is an incredible principle. We have some preconceived notions about the coffee we want to drink, particularly when it comes to how we want to drink our green coffee (sourced by hand) and green tea. It is only when we drink a freshly brewed cup of coffee or tea that we can find out just how complex a cup of coffee can be, not to mention its source. Single origin coffee is the antidote to this culture of making assumptions about coffee and how it should taste.