This week, we are back with another What is? article. This time we will bring you a question that probably all our enthusiast coffee readers already asked, What is Specialty Coffee? Nowadays we all heard people talk about this, but what Is Specialty Coffee after All?
The answer is very simple, accordingly to SCA (Specialty Coffee Association), specialty coffee is a product that consistently exists through the dedication of the people who have dedicated their life’s work to continually make quality their highest priority. This product results in not only one person but all the persons involved in the lifecycle of a coffee bean. Specialty can only occur when all the value chain works in harmony and with high standards from start to finish.
Producing a specialty coffee is not simple, it involves a lot of people and a huge amount of control. A cup of coffee may seem something simple but it is much more complex than what you imagine. To achieve a specialty coffee is important that every element of the value chain works with the same objective. This chain could be simplified in 5 elements: Coffee Farmer, Coffee Buyer, Roaster, Barista, and Consumer.
The first element on this value chain is the coffee farmer. Great coffee starts with a great producer that dedicated her life to perfect his approach to farming the highest quality coffee possible. For specialty coffee farmer the most important consideration is quality and not quantity. Only coffees free of defects and picked at their peak of ripeness will result in the final product.
The relation between the farmer and the quality-minded buyer is important to support individuals, families, and communities around the world.
Like a great sommelier, a green coffee buyer can easily identify the quality of a coffee via cupping, or systematic tasting of brewed coffees. Through these processes, the coffee taster can assess a coffee’s score and determine if it is a specialty grade quality. Another important role of a green coffee buyer is the communication about the coffee with the roaster and café staff.
Coffee roasting is considered an art and requires a high degree of knowledge and experience. The coffee must be closely monitored during the roasting process and scientific principles of heat transfer, thermodynamics and coffee chemistry must be applied to ensure the highest standard of quality and flavor come through in the final roasted bean.
After 3 levels of inspection that ensure an extremely high level of quality and control, the coffee finally arrives at the barista. This final coffee professional guarantee that the lifecycle of the specialty bean is complete. Specialty level Baristas are not only highly skilled in brewing equipment operations. They routinely are deeply informed as to the origin of the coffee bean and how it’s flavor profiles will be revealed in brewing.
The final stage of this value chain is YOU, the consumer! The cycle ends when you take the time to find a local coffee bar or roastery that is dedicated to quality. When you take an extra moment to learn from your barista about the people whose hands and passion produced the cup you’re enjoying so that you can make more informed choices. When you demonstrate not only a commitment to a higher standard of quality of taste and flavor but also a commitment to a higher standard of living for every person who contributed along the way.
With the problems of the sustainability of our planet, it is increasingly important to know what we eat. You should always know the origin of the product and the way it was produced before you buy. These two simple questions make a huge impact on the planet and in the life of many small producers. So, if you like coffee and you want to help to solve the crisis of sustainability you should choose a specialty coffee. A product fair for the planet and for the people who produced it.