Small Lots of Coffee
We refer to a fixed amount of green or unroasted coffee as a lot. Quality-driven coffee buyers naturally obsess over these lots, which can range in size from a single burlap bag to enough to fill multiple shipping containers. A lot can be the product of a single farm or a blend of various producers’ coffees from a particular country or region.
A single farm or co-op may produce a number of lots that may vary in characteristics and qualities. More often, multiple small lots are combined to create a “mixed lot” large enough to fill a sea cargo shipping container, which is the standard measure of green coffee for most of the coffee industry.
We’ve discovered that the key to controlling the quality of our coffees is getting down to the smallest lots we can find: the small, special lots that may represent the produce of a single tiny farm, field, or day of picking. We primarily focus on these small lots, conscientiously selecting them to create each season’s catalog of single-origin coffees and blends.
Sometimes these small lots—often called microlots—are so special that it would be tragic to mix them with other coffees, no matter how great those other coffees may be. And so, for the past couple of years, we have made certain, single-origin small lots available as extremely limited offerings, allowing our customers to experience each wonderful coffee in the absolute peak of its season.
This is a new and unusual concept in the coffee world, which has focused for so long on homogenization and blending rather than maximizing quality and recognizing individual producers for their good work. The small lot trade has developed a unique vocabulary that has become a sort of secret language used by small lot enthusiasts. We, however, use these terms freely as part of our mission of transparency and education, and we will continue our work to increase the number of small lots available to our customers.
Small Lot Glossary:Microlot: The smallest of lots, usually the product of a single field of coffee or a single day of picking. These microlots are often possessed of an incredibly intense, focused flavor. (Visit the Microlots category of our Coffees section for a listing of currently available microlots.)
Super Lot: When a few, very special microlots are blended together with the intention of delivering a particularly intense, small-lot coffee experience.
Cup of Excellence: A contest which takes place in a number of coffee-producing countries, in which hundreds of small lots are tasted and graded by professional coffee tasters. The top-finishing coffees win awards and are sold via unique internet auctions.
Click here for a downloadable PDF of our Small Lots position paper.