A general guide to single-origin coffees

One of the more fun but frustrating parts of getting into single-origin specialty coffee is trying to figure out where to start. Let’s say that you have resolved to start buying specialty coffee, and you pop into your local specialty coffee shop. You are overwhelmed by the array of bags on the shelf. What do you choose?

The following chart is by no means complete; I have not included EVERY coffee-growing country/region on it, as it is not meant to be a comprehensive list. Instead, it’s meant to be a starting point for those who are interested in buying single-origin coffee. You might run into coffees that buck the trend every now and then, but if you know for instance that you want coffee that has cocoa/chocolate flavors, at least you’ll know to start looking at Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Ethiopia (natural-processed).

Obviously, this is a very simplistic look at coffee. Not all coffees from one country will taste the same, any more than people from one country act the same. Heck, even people from the same families don’t act the same a lot of the time! However, these are the common generalities I’ve found thus far on my coffee journey, and it can give you an idea of where to start when shopping if you’re looking for a specific flavor profile.

For those that are into wine, it’s like finding out the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) differences between a chardonnay and a riesling, or between a zinfandel and a beaujolais. It’s great fun getting to know the different personalities inherent in each country/region/farm.

Don’t be afraid to ask your friendly local barista for help. It’s part of their job to know the different flavor profiles of the beans they have for sale. Talk to them and get their advice about what each varietal has to offer.

If you are not somewhere where you can ask someone for help, carefully read the tasting notes printed on the bags. Most craft coffee companies get pretty detailed regarding what to expect in each brew! You’ll want to be looking closely at the bags anyway, because you’ll want to be sure that the coffee you’re buying has been roasted as freshly as possible. Stick to coffee roasted within the past two weeks for best flavor, and avoid coffee that only has a “best by” date.

Enjoy your tasting journey!

Download the PDF here: Handy-dandy chart to Single-Origin Coffee

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