The names given to specialty coffees do not follow a universal format. There are no international standards available when we see something like “Colombian Supremo” or “Sumatra Mandheling”, so common usage prevails.
“Single Origin” generally means coffee the coffee was grown in a particular country. Breakfast Blend and French Roast wouldn’t be Single Origin because in the one case (as the name states) it’s a blend, and in the other, the name simply denotes the color of the roast — not the type of bean used.
Within each country, either a region or grade comes next. Kenya AA is a grade, while Costa Rican Tarrazu is a region. Costa Rican SHB — Strictly Hard Bean — is a grade, but in this case, because Tarrazu is a top growing region, the highest classification of SHB is understood. The same could be said of a Kenya Kirinyaga: the AA is implied. Sometimes, the coffee industry will also use the term “Estate” or give the name of the city where the farm is located to help further distinguish the growing area. Jamaican Blue Mountain Wallenford Estate means coffee processed within the Wallenford network of pulpuries and finishing works. Costa Rican Dota is a town in the Central Valley region, and signifies a coffee with a better defined area than simply Tarrazu.
Next, let’s decipher Hawaiian Kona. In some cases, sellers simply use the name and reputation of Kona to describe a blend that is mellow. The State of Hawaii has a law on its books that prescribes a minimum of 10% Kona in a “Kona blend”. However this only applies to coffee sold in Hawaii, not elsewhere. Names on coffee can therefore be misleading.
A true Hawaiian Kona is (of course) 100% Kona – grown in a strictly defined area on the Big Island’s west coast. It can also then carry the name of an estate, such as Pomaika’i Farm. And don’t forget the grade: Extra Fancy, Fancy, and #1, in that order. Other countries have their own particular methods of names, regions and grades.
Coffee Express has procured a few Cup of Excellence® coffees in the past couple of years. This U.S-based, international program sets the highest bar for quality. In this case, not only is the country, grade, and farm known, but also the type of coffee plant (typica, catura, etc.), altitude grown, and other qualifiers that can determine taste. We are happy to direct you to one of our customers, should you have an interest in trying any of these distinct and wonderful coffees.