What is Specialty Coffee
Are you ready for the next level? This is the kind of questions you may be asking yourself if the post's headline caught your eye. Specialty coffee is an interesting and very complex topic, however the idea of this blog is to keep it simple.
George Howell who coined the term defines Specialty Coffee as "Clean cup and sweet", this is a simple, clear and objective definition. By the way by "Clean Cup" he means no defects.
Specialty Coffee is the result of long hours of hard and dedicated work from coffee farmers and the mastery of a toast roaster. Specialty coffee refers to the taste of the coffee itself, which depends on the whole processing process from picking only the ripe coffee beans, processing (washed, semi-washed or natural), storing the green beans after hulling (removing the parchment), and later finding the perfect roast. This whole process will be responsible for the aroma and taste that will make the coffee special.
Then the coffee goes through the process of Coffee Cupping where Q Graders (this stands for proffessional and expert coffee tasters) rate it considering ten different attributes (Fragance/Aroma, Flavor, Aftertaste, Acidity, Body, Uniformity, Balance, Clean cup, Sweetness and Overall) on a scale from 0 to 100. According to the Specialty Coffee Association - SCA if the coffee gets a score above 80 it is considered Specialty. Under the critteria of the Alliance for Coffee Excellence - ACE the score should be above 85.
As you may have already figured out, producing Specialty Coffee is a hard working process that resembles more creating a handcraft, a piece of art, and not an industrialized mass process. For this reason you will find Specialty Coffee is produced in small quantities and hence it is scarce and not cheap at all! For the case of Colombia my estimate is that around 5% to 10% of total coffee production (in 2016 it was above 14 million 60kg bags) is of Specialty Coffee. I am sure Colombia is the largest producer of this kind of coffees worlwide considering it is the largest producer where coffee beans are manually harvested, so it can be guarantee only the mature/red beans are picked, which contrasts with the industry in Brazil were machines are used. I am not considering Vietnam given that they are Robusta producers (if you want to know the difference between Robusta and Arabica click here, or if you want to know what is Arabica coffee click here).
Please let us know if you have ever tried Specialty Coffee and share with us your experience. Was it going to the next level? Where did you try it and where is the coffee from? How much did you pay for it?
In later posts we will continue writing about this topic.