When my grandfather began working in grocery shops, before The First World War, single origin coffee was not widely available and nearly all coffee that was sold was as a blend. In most cases, the blend was kept a secret, known only to the grocer. Often, they would be given a name that gave no more than a few clues as to where the beans had been grown. Names like ‘Empire Blend’ were popular. As much of the coffee sold in the UK back then came from the colonies, it was likely to have been a mixture of East African arabica with perhaps some West African robusta, or Indian coffees.

When it came to single origin coffees, the range was limited. Kenyan Coffee was often sold as a single origin bean, due to its unique acidity and demanded a higher price. Jamaican coffee was also well known, not all of it necessarily of the Blue Mountain variety. But even then, the location, altitude, and individual growers were seldom identified in any detail.

jamaica blue mountain

In those days, much of the coffee was grown on a large scale, or bulked together and so the individual character of the beans was lost or at least masked.

Yet good coffee was available. My grandfather always believed that blending was not necessary, especially if he could find the best quality single origin coffees. He also did not see why as much information as possible about the farm, the farmer and the people who work there should not be shared. This led him to promote Chagga coffee from Kilimanjaro. During a visit to Tanzania in 1960s, he travelled to the farms and met the people there. This was the beginning of what has been a long standing relationship with the Chagga coffee farmers, making H. R. Higgins the first British roasters to offer a single origin coffee – Tanzania Kibo Chagga.

These days, we know pretty much everything about where we buy our beans. We know what bean variety it is, where exactly it is grown and by whom. We know how it was processed whether by the washed process, natural process, or any variation between.

With this information, and by forming a relationship with our suppliers, we can be assured that we are buying great quality coffee from a sustainable source that benefits everyone involved from the farmer all the way to our customers. It also means we can present some of the most interesting coffees many grown on a small scale with amazing dedication by people who live and breathe coffee as much as we do, in their purest form.

So please explore our single origin coffees, which truly are a direct link to the coffee farmer.