The origin of coffee: Single origin, Microlot, Nanolot

Single origin coffee

It's not as easy as it sounds. What do you see on coffee packaging?

Single origin

Coffee that comes from one place. The more we look into it, the more variations we discover.

One country or region: Single origin coffee can come from one country or a specific region within that country.

Today, however, some people may argue that Colombian coffee, as such, should still be considered a blend. After all, there are significant differences between coffees from Huila and Caquetá.

You may also hear that coffee comes from a specific area and so is referred to as macro: it still represents the flavor profile of the area, but is already flavorfully different when compared to a micro batch.

Single origin coffee can thus mean the same thing as saying a wine is grown in Europe.

Coffee can come from a large farm (left) or a small farm like a micro lot (right) and both can be Single origin coffee.
Single farm: This is coffee from a single farm. It is usually a high quality and subsequently more expensive coffee with a distinctive flavour profile. Often the coffee is composed of one or two varieties of Arabica.

One cooperative: Sometimes it is not possible to have a single cooperative in an area. In many countries, especially in Africa, there are farmers who produce only a few bags of coffee each harvest. In these cases, a local cooperative canprocess all the coffee together to make one batch from the hard work of many farmers. Some cooperatives have strict quality requirements and regulate the production and harvesting methods of their members.

Micro-batch: a micro-batch is coffee that comes from a given plot of land on a farm, or from very small farms, and also perhaps from a group of producers living in a neighbourhood.

When coffee isharvested and processed on such a small scale, costs increase and therefore the selling price must also rise to cover them. For this reason, micro batches are usually only coffee of excellent quality. Micro batches are usually around 40 bags weighing 60 kg.

Nano batches: are very similar to micro batches, but even smaller. Nanobatches usually have only one or two 60 kg bags.

Micro lots and Nano lots are often encountered in Africa where farmers collect coffee either growing wild or on a very small farm. They then take the harvest to the processing plants.

What are the advantages of Single Farms & Microlots

So is single farm coffee origin a good thing? Does coffee have to come from a single farm, micro lot or nano lot to achieve high quality? What about micro batches that come from multiple farms?

As the third coffee wave grows stronger and stronger and information flows from farm to consumer, we have begun to realize how important the origin of coffee is. Soil type and quality, climate, production choices and processing methods have a dramatic impact on the quality and taste of coffee. They always give coffee a unique flavour profile.

This is why we are moving away from simple descriptors of country or region. To imagine that coffee is from Brazil loses its meaning and even the big brands are aware of this. Brazil produces more than 30% of the world's coffee. Even if you know that coffee comes from a specific Brazilian region, it is meaningless when you realize that the Minas Gerais region produces more coffee than any other country in the world.

O'Coffee Brazilian Estates is a group of six farms with 1,000 hectares of land dedicated to coffee. Each of these farms has subdivided its land to reach a total of 50 specific lots. The size of these lots can vary significantly. More and more farms and processing plants are moving in a similar direction.

The information around each batch - farm description, area, altitude, soil, climate, etc. - determines how the coffee is grown and subsequently processed. Smaller batches are used for their micro batches and nano batches, which make up about 1% and 0.1% of their 35,000 bags, respectively.

On the other hand, in some countries such as Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, a single farmer could produce less coffee than the Brazilian micro batch. Therefore, a micro batch from, for example, Tanzania could include coffee grown by several members of a cooperative.

Are smaller coffee harvests better?

This trend has resulted in smaller, more specific lots and origins - or more precisely, four reasons.


No one wants coffee that they have no idea where it comes from. I think the more details you have, the more connected you are to the origin of that coffee and know that it was sustainably produced. It's also important to know if the coffee is certified, the name of the farm is certified, so you know you're drinking sustainably produced coffee and connecting people.

In theory, smaller batches make traceability easier. You know where the coffee was grown, you know the conditions under which it was grown, and you know how that affects the coffee itself and the local environment. You start to learn more about the lives of the people who grow the coffee, and in an ideal world, buyers and producers can work towards more sustainable prices.


Every element of how coffee is produced and processed affects its taste - good or bad. And some coffees have a very distinctive profile. One may have a more floral profile, another a sweeter one. If these coffees were mixed, the flavor notes of one type would drown out all the others. Instead, only by selling these coffees as separate batches will their distinctive flavours be preserved and enhanced.


Of course, if the coffee is of poor or mediocre quality, there is no point in trying to maintain a specific profile. Coffees from one farm, one variety, micro batches, nano batches ... these tend to be quality coffees. What's more, working with smaller batches makes it easier to identify quality coffee and work to improve it further. Knowing the origin is important not just to make sure we don't invest time and money in the wrong growing areas.

We test, roast and then drink the coffee to make sure we invest our efforts in the right areas on the farm that offer the best potential for that batch before harvest. Once the batches with the most potential have been selected, the team selectively harvests followed by electric sorting, dries the coffee on raised beds and in parabolic troughs, and then shells the beans from the cherries.

Poor quality coffee is often disguised by mixing the coffees into so-called blends and roasting at a higher intensity to hide defects in the coffee.


Small farm plots give roasters or buyers more control over the factors that affect quality. If you or the importer have the opportunity to visit or establish a relationship with the producer, you can communicate and understand exactly where the coffee comes from and how it is produced.

With one coffee from macro batches and micro batches, producers and buyers can more easily establish long-term relationships. This in turn allows them to provide feedback, make requests and work together to achieve the ideal coffee and contract for both parties.

It's better for the farmer. They can be aware that the quality they are delivering is good and can then improve and find out what the customer's needs are.

On a bag of coffee you will normally find, for example, the region, the variety of coffee plant and the processing...

How do manufacturers ensure that they do not mix?

When harvesting any coffee, it is essential to ensure that batches remain separate. Any contamination will affect the flavour, quality and purity of the coffee.

To achieve this, producers need to invest in good processes, especially if they are producing micro batches and nanobatches. Information on tracking and storage of coffee is key. Coffees need to be harvested separately, processed separately and stored separately. All identifying information such as batch name or number, variety, processing method and procedure must always be attached to the coffee. You will find them printed on the bag of green beans.

Is coffee from one area a single variety? Probably not.

Often it is a harvest of two varieties of Arabica. For example, the Caturra, Catuai, which are typical of Brazil, are mixed in the same bag of coffee.

The more we learn about coffees coming from one region, the more complex we realise that this production is. There is a big difference between the production of one farm, one region and one country.

But one thing is clear: the more information we have about the coffee, the higher quality we can generally count on. Therefore, when choosing a coffee, pay attention to the exact origin, processing, variety (not just the basic Arabica vs Robusta) and if possible the Cupping Score. And of course the roasting date!