A Guide to Blends, Single Origin & Micro-Lot Coffee
For what seems like decades, people have been debating the virtues of a blend against those of a single origin or micro-lot bean.
In our view, blends, single origins and micro-lot coffees should all be celebrated for what they bring to the table and the roles that they can perform.
Generally speaking, blends are for frequent, everyday use, whilst specialised options, such as single origins and micro-lots, represent a more premium and personalised product.
- Blend: A variety of coffee that contains two or more types of beans, generally sourced from different origins.
- Single Origin: Coffee that is grown in one geographical area, be that a country or a region
- Micro-lot: Coffee that is picked from a certain field or farm, a specific altitude, or on a particular day. These tend to be the best beans that a plantation, cooperative or farmer will produce
The vast majority of coffee sold on the high street, including in chains such as Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero and independents, will be a coffee blend.
A major reason that blends are preferred, is due to the flavour options available. A blend is likely to be more consistent all year round, no matter the type of coffee being made, whether that be an espresso, or combined with milk to create cappuccinos, lattes and more.
Blends are crafted to offer a wide range of flavours and tend to be a signature of a particular brand or establishment.
"How do you want your coffee to taste?"
A blend is much more likely to suit a number of palates and, no matter the time of year, should remain consistent in composition and profile.
This allows operators, like you, to offer a lead product that will not only appeal to the majority of your customers but one that is available year-round at an attractive price point.
Originally some of the "Italian inspired" blends had a tendency to contain a high proportion of cheap beans. These beans were then roasted at higher temperatures to accentuate bitter notes and mask their bland flavours.
Thankfully though, that is one philosophy we don't advocate. We don't like bad coffee and we certainly don't think that anybody should be subjected to a sub-standard cup.
We believe that a blend should be anything but average. It should be unique, special and taste absolutely phenomenal!
Take our Super Crema blend, for example.
Our best-selling coffee is comprised of four different beans, all of which have distinctly separate origin characteristics. When these are then mixed together they combine to form a unique and appealing coffee, one that cannot be replicated by a solitary type of bean. The result is a smooth, balanced and full-bodied cup with noticeable hints of fruit and a subtle chocolate note.
No wonder it's so popular!
However, if you want to hone in on the distinct profile of a singular variety of coffee, you should look in the direction of speciality coffees.
Single Origin Coffee
Single origin coffees will stimulate the senses and send people on a whirlwind tour of the globe.
But what separates these offerings from a 'regular' blend?
As we have seen, blends will be made up of two or more types of coffee, often sourced from different countries.
A single origin coffee is essentially coffee that has been grown within a single geographic location, in some cases this is a single farm, or a specific collection of beans from a single country.
It is common to name this single origin coffee after the place in which it was grown, giving you a clearer picture of where your coffee has come from.
We can narrow the scope down even further still and focus not on individual countries, but on particular growing regions and plantations. This is a sub-section of the speciality industry and these coffees are known as micro-lots.
A micro-lot refers to beans that can be traced back to their original source be it a specific farm, field or harvest. These tend to be the pick of a particular crop.
These aren't grown in large-scale quantities for commercial use and as such, supply is often limited as yields can vary from year to years as even the smallest of climatic variations can affect their inherent flavours.
Nurtured from seed to bean and then to cup, these varieties are carefully grown to be the very best beans possible.
Micro-lots are renowned for their delicate flavours which, in our opinion can get lost in milk-based beverages. But, as always, it depends on the coffee: Some will work brilliantly in latte whilst others won't quite be as good when combined with milk.
At the turn of the millennium George Howell founded the Cup of Excellence initiative. Designed to bring about a new focus on beans grown from specific plots or plantations, the competition put the spotlight on areas often ignored in the commercial sphere. It proved to be an extremely popular concept and by narrowing the field down, farmers and cooperatives further improved their practices to increase the quality – and value - of their produce.
Fifteen years on, the scene is beginning to break through into the mainstream as growers, customers and homebrewers alike are continually searching for that perfect cup.
Once people begin to explore their virtues, there's no going back.
Over the past decade or so the coffee industry has truly exploded and market analysts believe that the sector will continue to grow and grow.
One of the biggest emerging trends at the moment is that of the 'third wave' approach. Here, specialist coffee shops, run by artisan baristas, provide a unique customer experience that is based on quality and an exceptional attention to detail that encompasses everything from the beans' origin to the latest brewing methods.
With low overheads and high-profit margins, by embracing specialist single origin and micro-lot coffees into your existing business, you could really maximise and improve your incoming revenue streams and appeal to a wide variety of customers. However it is worth bearing in mind that tailored brewing equipment or an additional grinder may be required, and staff will need to be educated on the product in question to truly maximise its commercial potential.
By having varieties on rotation, you will be able to offer your customers a premium, stand-alone product that is only available for a limited period of time.
Take time to inform your customers about the coffee's origin and its precise flavour profiles and why it is worth and why they should move away from the norm. It is a high-quality option and it should be treated as such.
Our selection of both brewing equipment and specialist coffees are ideal for picking up for use in the home. Creating exceptional tasting coffee in the comfort of your own kitchen has, in recent years, become more and more popular whilst becoming a remarkably easy process.
So why not experience a world of different tastes every morning?
A balance is best
We believe that a well-rounded menu will contain finely tailored blends for day-to-day use as well as a collection of distinctive single origin and micro-lots for filter coffee and speciality lattes etc.
With the right balance, any coffee shop will be able to cater for any and all palettes; from the casual drinker right through to the discerning connoisseur.
Imagine a pub for one moment. The guest ale represents these more expensive coffees; it is a product that can be sold for a premium, but one that will be changed on a semi-regular basis.
It is an option that is there not to compete, but to complement and act as an alternative for those who like to explore and experience a little adventure from time to time.
As with all premium products, you should expect to spend a little bit extra in sourcing a micro-lot or a seasonally sourced blend.
On average, an espresso made with our popular Super Crema blend will cost around 8p, leaving operators with a very healthy profit margin after taking into account labour, sundries and other outlays.
A speciality coffee might cost, say, an extra 7p per shot, but this can then be sold at a much higher premium.
Check out our "coffee calculator" to work out how much you stand to make based upon our competitive coffee prices!
- To be used as a consistent product
- Less expensive due to widespread availability
- Perfect for milk-based drinks & espressos
- Very versatile
- Round, balanced flavour
- Micro-lots have a singular provenance
- Single origins come from a country or region
- Individual taste profile – no two will be alike
- Perfect for filter coffee
- Unique product with a great selling point