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The Ultimate Guide To Specialty Coffee

by Radhe Gupta
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Coffee; undeniably is an essential part of everyone’s life from dusk to dawn. It’s absolutely true that a sip of great coffee can help you kickstart your day on a positive note. However, when we talk about premium quality coffee, specialty coffee comes on the top.

 Added to this is the fact that specialty coffee generates enchantment. There is a certain magic when the hot water meets the roasted grain turned to powder. The aroma released is able to awaken and sharpen the senses. This feeling leads many to fall in love with the drink. So, today we are here to discuss more about specialty coffee definition along with it’s making and much more!

Understand the specialty coffee definition

The term specialty coffee first appeared in 1974. Erna Knutsen, author in the  Tea & Coffee Trade Journal, used it to describe quality coffees with more distinguished flavors, grown and harvested under ideal conditions. Coming from specific terrains, they are often available in small quantities. Then the Specialty Coffee Association was created to standardize, organize and promote these exceptional coffees. This is what defines the so-called “specialty” coffee today.

Specialty coffees (or gourmet coffees) are defined as high-end coffee-based drinks to which the consumer (in a specific market and at a given time) attributes a unique quality, distinct and superior taste and character compared to a regular coffee drink. This drink is prepared using green coffee beans grown in specific areas, and meeting the most demanding standards in terms of production, processing, roasting, conservation and preparation. 

Something more than the specialty coffee definition

Specialty coffees come from the Arabica species, which grow better at higher altitudes, generally above 700 meters, in the correct period of the year, in the best soil, harvested at the right time and carefully worked after the harvest. So they demand a lot more attention from the producer. On the other hand, they are sold at a much higher price, which guarantees profitability for the small producer.

So, these microlots of special coffee are sold through cooperatives or directly to roasters. However, when receiving the micro batches, the roasters create a roast profile for each coffee, in order to enhance the best aromas and flavors. In other words, they elevate the best attributes of each coffee: its sweetness, smoothness, body, astringency, etc.

Then, finally, it’s the barista’s turn, a professional dedicated to preparing coffee. With high precision equipment such as espresso machines and other preparation methods it develops and improves the best extraction method for each microbatch. From the grain to the cup!

Standards that define the specialty coffee

In addition to an exceptional flavor, specialty coffee must meet several criteria that guarantee its quality and rarity: 

  • The origin: it is essential to know the country of origin of the coffee to precisely determine its aromatic profile. It also provides more information about the growing conditions of a lot as well as the farmer’s choices at harvest time. 
  • Altitude : the higher a coffee tree grows at a high altitude, the denser its beans, which often promises a complex aromatic profile. We can speak of high altitudes from 1200-1400 meters.
  • The harvest period: beyond a year after harvest, the grain is likely to lose all of its aromas or a very large part depending on the preservation methods used. 
  • Treatment: the aromatic profile of the grain changes depending on its treatment. As a general rule, the more pulp a bean is covered with when drying, the more likely the coffee is to have sugar and cup body. The counterpart is a fermentation taste that is not always under control.
  • The roaster: a good roaster must strike a balance between his professional “touch” and the natural aromas of the coffee, which he must sublimate. Thus, roasting should not take precedence over the flavor of the coffee. 

End note

From the crop to the cup, the making of specialty coffee is truly an art. Undoubtedly, the magical flavor and aroma of the coffee drives you into a different world. So, if you want to taste the best quality coffee then don’t forget to bet on the specialty coffee. We hope that the article helped to understand everything you need to know about coffee.

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