What is Specialty Coffee?
What is “Specialty” Coffee?
Our Managing Director, Robert Jones, tells you everything you need to know about Specialty Coffee.
Ah, coffee. The beautiful beverage that lures each of us out of our beds in the mornings. Let’s face it: you’re probably reading this with a cup in your hand, right now. Don’t worry; we don’t blame you. Not only is it the most popular drink worldwide, but coffee is also available in all kinds of flavors, brews, and even grades.
But you might think it doesn’t matter what’s in the cup—as long as it keeps your head off the desk, right? Well, believe it or not, your trusty morning ritual companion is more than just a caffeine boost, especially when you’re indulging in Specialty coffee.
If you weren’t aware before, then you heard it here first. There’s average coffee, then there are the Specialty beans. But what exactly is Specialty coffee, and what makes it so “special,” anyway?
To give you a better idea of the types of roasts you could (or, rather, should) be drinking, we’ll dive deep into the Specialty coffee world, including what sets it apart from the rest of the pack
Average Coffee vs. Specialty Coffee: What’s the Difference?
We all know that coffee production is a complex process, from growing coffee plants to harvesting to roasting, then grinding and brewing. This results in hundreds of different blends; but the many different stages also leave plenty of room for error. Small mistakes lead to what we know as the regular, low grade coffee brands that I’m sure you’ve all regretted trying at some point. OK for cooking, but not much else! However, when the brew is superior, we call it “Specialty” coffee. Try our Specialty on the go coffee in all Zoom stores, to taste the difference.
So, what’s the actual difference?
Specialty coffee differs in a few particular ways. Specialty coffee is grown, sourced, ground, and brewed for quality. Not to mention, the beans are tracked and managed from the beginning of their lifecycles until the end to prevent any dismaying surprises later on.
But, of course, Specialty coffee is not the same as “gourmet” or “premium” coffees. Gourmet and premium do not have any standards to meet to classify them as such, while Specialty coffee is required to meet stringent and necessary qualifications.
Growing & Sourcing Specialty Coffee
One of the primary differences of Specialty coffee is its growing process. The Specialty Coffee Association of America has continuously defined it as the highest quality coffee that is derived from beans grown in particular microclimates, which gives them their complex flavours. Seeds have to be unprocessed and free of any flaws before they’re planted in the perfect place and, of course, at a precise time.
Not only that, but Specialty coffees aren’t typically readily available in just any grocery store. At Coffee Planet, we form relationships with coffee farms, hand-selecting the most delicious and ideal roasts, ultimately enabling us to produce the highest-quality Specialty coffee.
How a Roast Qualifies as “Specialty”: Coffee Grades
Specialty coffee is only considered a “Specialty” as long as it meets the defined standards and certifications during the production process. From seed to cup, Specialty coffee needs to guarantee quality during every stage. That said, even from the brew style to the barista’s magical touch, the entire making of Specialty coffee requires certifications to ensure that it is just as exceptional in experience as it is in taste.
Nonetheless, let’s take a look into the crucial grading phases that take place during Specialty coffee manufacturing.
After harvesting the coffee beans, damaged, flawed, and discolored beans are tossed out—Specialty coffee leaves no room for weakness. Removing rancid or defective beans is particularly important in the Specialty coffee industry. Even just one sour or over-ripe bean can quickly impact the remainder of its blend in the worst ways, ultimately leaving your coffee miserably bitter.
Today, Specialty coffee qualifications go far past the beans. Once it leaves the sorting stage, the coffee is graded by certified coffee tasters in a process called “cupping.” A professional cupper visually approves a portion of the beans before undergoing an initial, high-quality “test” roast. After which, the beans are ground and submerged in hot water, and the cupper utilizes their special slurps to decide if the remainder of the batch is worthy for roasting.
The Final Grade
Coffee undergoes its final grading once the professional cupper tests its visual quality and flavor after being roasted. The rank is considered “Specialty” when the cupper finds few secondary defects—like broken beans—and zero primary defects—like sour or discolored beans. Each and every aspect of the beans, from their visible features to their aroma and taste, is scored on a scale of 80 to 100. Anything that scores below 80 is not considered Specialty coffee. We have a team of Q -graders are the certified professional coffee tasters in house, nothing gets past them.
To give you a better idea of what the grades signify, here is an example of typical Specialty coffee grading scores:
80-84.99: Very Good
Between the myriad of brands, blends, brewing systems, and delicious flavors, the coffee industry can become overwhelming enough to merely grab the cheapest bag off of the shelf at your local supermarket. However, with Specialty coffee, you know you’re getting quality with every single brew. Specialty coffee is not labeled “special” as a simple marketing scheme. Instead, it’s grown, harvested, sorted, roasted, ground, and even brewed to the highest quality standards possible. As if we weren’t already hooked, Specialty coffee offers coffee enthusiasts like you and me a delicious experience that we’re simply unable to resist. All Coffee Planet coffee is Specialty graded at 84 or higher.