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What Is Specialty Coffee?
To find the origins of the term specialty coffee, we have to wind the clock back to 1974. In that year, a coffee expert by the name of Edna Knutsen published the words side-by-side for the first time in the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal.
But, what did she mean? Well, Knutsen was referring to coffee beans full of flavour, grown in microclimates. To be more exact, today, a coffee only gets the specialty label if it scores 80 out of a possible 100 on the scale by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (ACAA). It's important not to confuse speciality coffee with other terms commonly used to describe coffee, such as gourmet. Whereas the word gourmet is purely descriptive, specialty indicates an industry-set, measurable level of excellence.
You've probably noticed that regular coffee beans are often labelled Arabica or Robusta. These are the two most common coffee species in the world. However, did you know that both have numerous varietals, each with its own, unique flavour profile? In fact, there are over 160 types of Arabica. And this is part of what makes specialty coffee different. When you buy specialty coffee, you know exactly which varietal you're getting, so you can experiment with a wide variety of subtle, complex tastes and maybe even find your favourite.
Altitude and climate
It's possible to trace any specialty coffee back to its roots. In other words, you can find out precisely where it was grown and who grew it, often right down to the microlot (or specific plot). After all, microclimate is crucial to a specialty coffee's flavour profile. Temperature, altitude, sunlight, rainfall and moisture levels all play a role.
In contrast, it's difficult to know where regular coffee comes from. Often, the label will only mention a continent, country or, at best, a region.
Another factor in determining what is specialty coffee is processing. There are several steps involved in getting a coffee bean from a plant into your cup. With specialty coffee, excellence is vital at every stage. Firstly, the farmers responsible for growing the beans tend to focus on quality, rather than quantity. In fact, many specialty coffees grow only in small batches and are available in limited amounts. Once the beans have matured, they must be picked at exactly the right time — when they're as ripe as possible. Any beans with issues are left out.
The next step is the buying process, which is taken care of by a highly qualified, highly trained green coffee buyer. He/she is gifted with a hyper-sensitive palate and, after sampling the beans, will decide whether or not they're likely to make the specialty coffee grade.
Then, it's time for roasting. Some specialty coffee roasters hold certification from the ACAA, which means they really know what they're doing. They make all the technical decisions around thermodynamics, heat transfer and so on, to ensure that every bean is roasted to perfection, bringing out its full potential.
Enjoying specialty coffee
Of course, all the farming, buying and roasting in the world mean nothing if there's no one to enjoy the end product. Specialty coffee beans are often best ground fresh and transformed into coffee by an expert barista. If you're enjoying them at home, then be sure to use a high-quality grinder and coffee-making equipment.
Buy Specialty Coffee Online
Are you wondering where to buy specialty coffee? Wonder no further. You can buy it online. Here at Cafe Britt, our mission is to source the world's finest specialty coffee and ship it directly to Australia, to your doorstep.
Café Britt is one of the world’s few “country-of-origin” producers, which means that our range of specialty coffees are grown and produced in Costa Rica. With great care and passion we grow and source these gourmet coffee and ship directly to Australia. FREE SHIPPING on all Specialty Coffee orders over $60!