What is Micro Lot Coffee?
If you’re interested in specialty coffee or third-wave coffee, you’ve probably heard the term “micro-lot.” But do you know what it means?
Is it just coffee from a smaller plot? Or does it tell us something about the coffee itself? Confusingly, the answer is a bit of both. Keep reading to see what I mean.
What is Micro lot Coffee?
Microlot coffee is not defined well, as is the case with many terms in the coffee industry. The definition often varies depending on who you ask. This is a problem because, without a single meaning throughout the coffee supply chain, the term loses its value.
In general, a micro-lot of coffee is coffee traceable to a particular region — so specific that each bean experiences the same climate, soil, altitude, and processing.
Most commonly, we define microlot coffee in one of two ways. It is either coffee grown on a small plot of a single farm or the coffee processed through a particular washing station on a single day. Regardless, the critical factors are that the coffee is traceable and pure. It foremost preserves the unique flavor characteristics of a specific region.
Of course, the polar opposite of a micro-lot is a blend, which can contain coffees from different regions, different countries, and even different continents.
Marketers use the term micro-lot to refer to exceptional quality coffees. And though the definition of micro-lot doesn’t require a certain quality, this is often true. Growing and processing one plot of coffee beans separately requires more time and expense from the farmer, so they aim to grow better coffees that fetch higher prices.
Why Choose Micro-lot?
The popularity of micro-lot coffee is rising with the emergence of coffee’s third wave (1). Consumers are increasingly interested in the source of their coffee, including the growing region, conditions, and processing, because these factors give a coffee its unique qualities.
These days, single-origin coffee can mean many things. With a country like Brazil growing 30% of the world’s crop, a single-origin Brazilian coffee can be no different from a blend. Indeed, Brazil has states that grow more coffee than any country in the world.
A micro-lot coffee ensures the coffee drinker is getting a distinct taste experience.
Conscientious consumers also care about how their coffee is grown in environmental, social, and economic sustainability. Micro-lots make it easier to track these factors.
For growers, the primary advantage of micro-lot coffee is identifying and cultivating higher quality lots to achieve higher prices. For a detailed look at the economics of micro-lots, check out this video.
Cultivating a micro-lot can also establish long-term relationships between producers and buyers. Why is that? Well, because the feedback from buyers is easier to implement on a small scale. According to Ubion Terra of O’Coffee Brazilian Estates, this is good for all involved (2).
It helps a lot in maintaining the quality or even improving the quality if you are connected directly… It helps both parties in this process.
For the buyer or roaster, a micro-lot coffee is a chance to offer customers something unique for which they’ll be willing to pay a premium. In many ways, “micro-lot” holds the same cachet once owned by “organic” or “fair trade,” terms that have fallen out of favor in the last decade.
Want to try a micro-lot coffee yourself? They’re often available through subscription services, or try our top picks for African coffee or coffee from Honduras.
The Future of micro-lot
Third-wave coffee is here to stay, so the odds are that micro-lots are as well.
There are now even nano lot coffees.
So, the most critical next step is to establish a consistent definition. Additionally, producers, buyers, and roasters can take advantage of modern technology to facilitate coffee tracing.
Given its potential to benefit everyone in the supply chain, plus the environment and communities at origin, micro-lot is a term well worth maintaining.
Fair trade coffee is a certified type of coffee. It is coffee that has been certified by a Fair Trade organization as having been bought at origin for a fair price. There are many such organizations, so the specifics of the certification vary.
Shade-grown coffee is one of several coffee certification types. It represents coffee that’s grown under a natural canopy of trees. As compared with a sun-drenched plantation, it is less resource-intensive and enhances biodiversity (3). Some also claim shade-grown coffee tastes better.
Single-origin coffee is increasingly hard to define. It can mean coffee from a single country, but it can equally refer to a specific region or even a single farm. It is a broader term than micro-lot. This article explains it in detail.
- McIntyre, E. (2017, January 19). What (Exactly) is “Third Wave Coffee”? Retrieved from https://magazine.crema.co/third-wave-f6479681dcf9
- Ospina, A.K.M. (2018, October 25). Understanding Single Origin, Single Farm, & Micro/Nano Lot Coffee. Retrieved from https://perfectdailygrind.com/2018/10/understanding-single-origin-single-farm-micro-nano-lot-coffee/
- Buechley, E.R. (n.d.). Why is shade-grown coffee good for birds and farmers? Retrieved from https://conbio.org/groups/sections/africa/act/why-is-shade-grown-coffee-good-for-birds-and-farmers