What is Specialty Coffee and Why is it Important?

by | Jul 3, 2024

Cupping to determine the Quality of a Coffee's Origin

Defining Specialty Coffee

Specialty coffee refers to high-quality coffee scoring above 80 points on the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) scale. This term, popularized by the SCA, distinguishes exceptional coffee through stringent standards from cultivation to brewing. It emphasises superior beans, precise processing, skilled roasting, and expert brewing, ensuring a premium coffee experience.

Importance of Specialty Coffee

Knowing you’re drinking specialty coffee is important for several reasons:

  • Quality Assurance: Guarantees high quality with carefully selected and graded beans for superior taste and aroma.
  • Traceability: Provides transparency about the coffee’s origin, including farm details, processing methods, and sustainability practices.
  • Ethical Practices: Supports fair trade and ethical sourcing, ensuring better wages and conditions for farmers.
  • Flavor Experience: Offers a distinct and complex flavour profile, superior to commercial-grade coffee, enhancing your overall coffee experience.

How to Identify Specialty Coffee

  • Label Information: Look for details about the origin, processing method, and tasting notes on the packaging.
  • Certification: Check for certifications from reputable bodies like the SCA.
  • Taste: Typically has a more nuanced and complex flavour profile compared to regular coffee.
  • Seller Reputation: Purchase from reputable roasters and cafes committed to quality and sustainability.

Characteristics of Specialty Coffee

  • Flavour Complexity: Offers distinct and complex flavours with notes of fruit, chocolate, nuts, and florals.
  • Freshness: Typically roasted and consumed within a short period to ensure maximum flavour.
  • Traceability: Often has traceable origins, allowing consumers to know the specific farm or region where the beans were grown.

Why Specialty Coffee Matters

  • Ethical Practices: Emphasizes fair trade, sustainable farming practices, and better wages for farmers.
  • Consumer Experience: Provides a superior taste experience, appealing to coffee connoisseurs.
  • Community and Culture: Supports a community of farmers, roasters, and baristas dedicated to quality and sustainability.

Overuse of the Term ‘Specialty’

The term ‘specialty coffee’ is often overused, becoming a marketing buzzword that dilutes its true meaning. Originally, it referred to the highest quality beans meeting rigorous SCA criteria. However, some businesses may label their coffee as ‘specialty’ without adhering to these standards, leading to consumer confusion and undermining the value of truly exceptional coffee.

Specialty coffee represents a commitment to excellence at every stage, from cultivation to cup, ensuring a premium coffee experience. Understanding and identifying true specialty coffee can enhance your appreciation and enjoyment of this exceptional beverage.

Checking the Coffee after Roasting

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Our favourite coffee

We accurately micro-roast our own speciality coffee on a Giesen Coffee Roaster in Oxford, using sustainably sourced green beans.

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