“Specialty coffee is a term for the highest grade of coffee available, typically relating to the entire supply chain, using single origin or single estate coffee”.The term was first used in 1974 by Erna Knutsen in an issue of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal. – Wikipedia
At the center of it all, what makes it worth the struggle and hardship of producing the highest quality coffee possible, are the farmers, and all the hands that form an integral part of the coffee-supply-chain.
You’ve probably heard the term “ specialty coffee “ or special grade coffee, if you haven’t it’s ok. Everywhere you look these days it seems like more and more people are choosing to drink better quality coffee. In actuality this sector alone is growing at a fast pace of about 4% year-to-year. That’s a lot more people drinking lots and lots of higher quality coffee. Considering how globally we consume about 2.25 Billion cups daily, and how 90% of coffee production takes place in developing countries, the coffee community is larger than ever and shows no signs of stopping.
Consistency in quality
Beyond buzz-worthy or trending hearsay, specialty coffee is in essence: high quality, great tasting beans that are grown at very high altitudes, then they are carefully selected and graded. These later become meticulously roasted and properly brewed to extract the best, maximum flavor potential from each bean. Every single time, consistently. That was a lot to take in, but it’s literally the only way to ensure the coffee produced remains special, like the gift it truly is.
“ The SCA sets the standard for specialty coffee at every stage of the coffee production, including water quality, brew strength as well as setting clear standards for the coffee grading process ” -SCA “Coffee Standards”– sca.coffee/research/coffee-standards
What does specialty coffee mean?
The Specialty Coffee Association defines specialty coffee as a collaborative work chain from source (farm), to buyer, to roaster, to barista and finally to your cup. As we shared earlier, the main goal is to produce the best tasting, highest quality coffee possible, sourced from origin(s) with a specific micro-climate which in turn produce more depth of flavor in your cup. Specialty coffee requires that both the farm(s) and the brewing be of the highest level of standard. It truly is a remarkable process going from seed to cup, to roasting, to brewing these beans. Even if you’re lucky to live in a country that grows and produces it’s own coffee like Puerto Rico, the level of standard remains the same; difficult and complex to achieve within the simple guidelines laid out by the SCA, but worth it in the end for everyone and the environment.
Farm to Cup ( Sourcing )
The term from “farm to cup” or “seed to cup” has everything to do with how the farmers care for the land where potential specialty coffee is grown. At nearly every stage up until brewing, we say it has potential because any mistake or defect in the bean can ruin the whole batch of coffee from even being considered specialty grade. It’s safe to say the producers of specialty coffee are responsible for nurturing and perfecting the coffee bean from seed to harvest in the span of their whole lifetime. A never ending passionate process of seeking the perfect cup.
“Grown in select altitudes and climates and nursed for years before the first harvest, the producer who creates specialty coffee devotes his or her life to refining and perfecting the highest quality coffee on the planet. “– sca.coffee ” What is Specialty Coffee “
Green Coffee Purchasing “Buyer”
The next step in the collaborative chain has to do with transferring the harvested green coffee beans to the buyer. The buyer may be an industry expert often times qualified and certified as a Q-grader by the SCA, who is tasked with cupping the coffee to determine it’s quality and tasting notes. Green coffee buyers are responsible for communicating all the details of the coffee’s profile to baristas, staff and roasters.
After the green coffee is harvested and graded, the art of roasting the beans to perfection takes place. During this delicate yet fiery and volatile process the roaster is responsible for extracting and developing the exact flavor profile they want to achieve while maintaining consistency , a process that can be affected in a matter of nano seconds if they are not careful enough. At our roasting facility we are blessed to have our skilled head roaster Edwin (who also happens to be our first employee ever!) who has tons of knowledge, passion and experience that goes into every small batch we roast. As well as a buyer who not only knows his beans, is a certified Q-grader. All of this work for the love of great people and beautiful coffee!
As soon as the beans have been carefully roasted, inspected and allowed some time to rest, they are packaged for retail as they finally make their way to your local barista at the coffee shop. The barista plays a key important role in the chain because they are the next to last hands tasked with the ethical responsibility of handling and brewing the coffee as perfect as possible. One misstep will cause the brew to burn, be under extracted or simply put, just not brewed to its fullest potential and ruin your espresso or your latte..or even your day! We are very grateful for the baristas at our shops who are the last line of defense in caring for not only you, the customer, but focus on producing an excellent brewed cup every single time, for hours on end.
“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. ”– Specialty Coffee Association : “What is Specialty Coffee – Baristas
The final part of the specialty coffee process is when you receive that beautifully-fresh, brewed-to-perfection cup of coffee, expertly made by your loving barista. Yes, you as the consumer of fine goods such as our Gustos Reserva single origin coffee or El Chupacabra experimental series, make it possible for us to exist and continue to source not only the best coffee in Puerto Rico, but the world all over.
Part of the beauty of coffee lies in it’s global, universal appeal. It is similar to the language of music, we all move to it, even if we don’t understand the words, we can appreciate it’s sonic beauty and how it makes us feel. So much work is involved in producing specialty coffee (or any fair-trade coffee for that matter) and while there are a lot of different meanings on what specialty coffee is to different people, specialty coffee (and all coffees) should always seek to respectfully be prepared well, be freshly roasted and perfectly brewed to it’s up most potential. Simple as that.
What does Specialty Coffee mean to you?