Specialty Coffee is a term that has been existing for almost four decades. It covers many factors throughout the coffee supply chain, not just about a certain type of coffee that has great quality.
Since it was born, in the 1970s, Specialty Coffee has really created a revolution in specialty coffee with the role of “reviving the inherent quality” of coffee and opening the premise for two waves that have a strong impact on the world.
Definition of Specialty Coffee
Specialty coffee is defined as the highest quality of coffee on the market, typically associated with the entire supply chain, utilizing coffee from a single farm or region in a country.
Erna Knutsen was considered the godmother of the term ‘specialty coffee.’
In an international coffee meeting celebrated in Montreuil, France, in 1978, she proposed an early simple concept of ‘specialty coffee.’
In essence, ‘specialty coffee’ refers to special geographic areas where beans grow with unique flavors.
The idea builds up a fundamental premise that specialty coffee beans would always undergo good preparation, fresh roast, and proper brew.
Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA)
SCAA is known as the Specialty Coffee Association of America. They continued to develop and complete a good definition of ‘specialty coffee. It includes two things.
First, there are three main factors to create specialty coffee, namely potential, preservation and revelation.
Second, it is necessary to consider the sustainability of specialty coffee. Particularly, sustainability refers to the close relationship of specialty coffee with the quality of farmer livelihood and the condition of the ecological environment.
Specialty Coffee supply chain
It is fine to compare coffee to another quite similar item like wine.
In the wine production model, it is clearly seen that an individual (or organization) can be fully responsible for its production stage from growing, husbandry, harvesting, processing, fermenting, and bottling.
Finally, you just need to cork and properly pour the wine into the glass and enjoy.
On the other hand, coffee in the hands of consumers is the result of a complex supply chain of farmers – millers (processors) – roasters – retailers.
Every chain is far from each other in terms of time, geography and also depends on the skill of roasters and bartenders.
Therefore, to label it as specialty coffee, it is much needed to examine the qualifications of each individual (organization) and create a definition of expertise at each stage of the supply chain.
Three factors of Specialty Coffee
Specialty Coffee is known as a distinct concept when it starts with the first key ‘potential’ the potential farm. All quality factors come from the farm where you first plant specialty coffee.
Why is that? Remember that in order to have high-quality coffee beans, coffee plantations need the right soil, suitable climatic conditions, good coffee seeds, and standard planting and harvesting processes. etc.
Coffee growers must pick beans at the peak of ripeness for the greatest potential. Coffee traders often tell farmers that the most primary element they can do for coffee quality is harvesting only ripe cherries.
Thus, you can see that specialty coffee production requires a heavy investment as well as a strict monitoring process. Particularly, many lands in the world luckily feature a type of good soil to plant the best quality coffee.
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The second main factor is preservation. After the harvest, a series of hazards (internal and external) that adversely affect taste arise.
Coffee cherries have to go through some processing, and time is the most important thing. The longer it takes, the greater flavor deterioration happens.
During the process, from peeling, fermentation, to drying, all must be handled carefully so that the coffee is not heavily damaged.
In particular, the fermentation process needs to be strictly controlled in terms of time and temperature. Drying too fast or too slow, drying unevenly or letting it re-wet…
All of these steps can degrade the coffee’s potential quality instead of preserving and increasing it. The coffee must then be put in stable storage before going through the final stages of raw processing and delivery.
At that time, environmental factors such as humidity, temperature, and storage materials are responsible for coffee quality.
Small errors in grading, husking, or (or slightly larger) in packaging selection or storage conditions prior to shipment can reduce the quality of the entire batch of coffee.
Coffee is once again in a transitional stage, from raw to roasted step. Here you will face the third important concept – revelation.
The roaster must detect the coffee’s potential, develop the right flavor, and ultimately package it properly. An inexperienced roaster, improperly operated equipment, and poor packaging can all ruin a potential coffee.
After roasting and before brewing, coffee beans must be ground. It is important that the grinding process should only be done before each brew step. The aroma will release much and the air will infiltrate as the beans break.
The fineness of ground coffee beans is also critical. It completely depends on which brewing technique you choose.
Grinding too fine can easily lead to over-extraction, and conversely, too coarse will not reveal the full flavor potential of beans.
Finally, every step from planting to the finished cup of coffee has been carefully arranged. No matter what brewing technique you use, you must apply the exact same standards of water quality, temperature, coffee/water ratio, etc. to fully exploit the potential flavor in each Specialty Coffee.
It should be noted that all of these aforementioned stages done do not mean you will have Specialty Coffee.
The reason is that all steps are just necessary conditions, and each type of coffee needs to go through a final exam, also known as Cupping, to be recognized as a Specialty Coffee.
If you find that producing a Specialty Coffee is an arduous journey, an examination of the standard of coffee beans is equally difficult.
According to the SCAA, coffee is only called ‘Specialty’ when it scores between 80 and 100 points on its rating scale.
The meaning of Specialty Coffee
What special meaning does Specialty Coffee mean to everyone? What do all of the above mean?
All of the above analysis tends to provide an assessment of whether coffee beans are “Specialty” with a great taste.
Whether raw, roasted, or brewed, the value of coffee and the quality of livelihood of those involved in the entire supply chain is the ultimate goal.
Typically, specialty coffees are traded at higher prices than the market average. Therefore, farmers’ profits will be guaranteed through prestigious certifications such as Fairtrade, Direct trade… It shows that the natural environment is also protected and the cultivation of coffee is proven.
In the end, consumers can be satisfied with quality at their expense. And there is much more to a sustainable coffee industry, that’s the reason Specialty Coffee has dominated and led the coffee industry for decades.
Our above article has just provided you with useful information. With the question “what is specialty coffee?“, you now have the correct answers through the article content.
Thank you for reading!
- “https://scanews.coffee/2017/03/17/what-is-specialty-coffee/”, March 17, 2017.
- https://www.scaa.org/?page=RicArtp2, Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).
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