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27 Apr What is specialty coffee?

It’s a bit of a buzz term, but what is specialty coffee all about?

In short it’s really good, tasty coffee, of very high quality that makes you go mmmmm.

The long, technical answer is that like any raw product, not all coffee is created equal and those that are deemed specialty grade have met a strict set of quality standards as set down by the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).

In fact, unlike other types of accreditation such as FairTrade, coffee that achieves specialty grade provides a guarantee of quality.

So what are the criteria that a coffee must meet to be graded as “specialty”?

Firstly in its raw form the coffee must be virtually free from defects.

These can occur as a result of diseases during growth, poor harvesting practices or faults in the processing method used by the farmer.

Secondly it must display superior characteristics in the cup with regards to aroma, acidity, body and aftertaste.

An elite group of accredited coffee graders known as “Q Graders” assess these sensory qualities of a coffee and give it a score out of 100. To achieve specialty grade, the coffee must score at least 80 and those that score above 90 are considered exceptional.

Specialty coffee is traded outside of the traditional commodity market, ensuring farmers are rewarded for producing better quality coffee with higher prices than they would otherwise achieve. It also means the coffee is fully traceable back to the farmer and the farm on which it was grown.

Given the unique qualities of specialty grade coffee, they quite comfortably stand alone and therefore cafes will often offer these as a single origin option to their blend. They are also celebrated using brew methods that really highlight the flavours of the coffee. These subtle flavours are often lost in the intensity of an espresso, so the popularity of filter brew techniques like pour over, syphon or french press have re-emerged alongside the growth of specialty coffee.

Beck and Call Coffee is dedicated to sourcing specialty grade coffee and roasting it with care to simply do it justice. There is no need to be a hero on the roaster when the beans going in are of superior quality. We believe specialty coffee not only delivers great results but from an industry perspective it is the most sustainable choice.

By supporting specialty grade coffee we are not only meeting the economic needs of farmers and their families but providing real incentives for farmers to improve their product and farming practices – it’s a win-win!