What Is Specialty Coffee?

Specialty coffee is a term used to refer to coffee that has scored over 80 points on a 100 point scale by the SCAA (Specialty Coffee Association of America) or by a licensed Q grader (CQI). Specialty coffee is coffee at its peak and is different from other coffee because specialty coffee has been grown at the perfect altitude, at the correct time of the year, in the best soil, and then picked at just the right time.


Typically, specialty coffee is grown at high altitudes, with much care and attention from the farmer. From there it is sold at a premium to coffee traders, or direct to roasters. The SCAA also maintains that specialty coffee goes beyond the quality of the beans; the processing, brewing, and roasting process is equally important to have a great coffee experience. 

Specialty coffee involves the ability to engagingly communicate the information surrounding why it is more special. The people involved need to possess an understanding and appreciation of whats make coffee special, hand-in-hand with the ability to cogently explain to a customer concept like seed type, roasting process, the fundamental chemical processes that transform green coffee into brown coffee, the basics of extraction, and the laymen versions of the organic chemistry unfolding in each cup.

Where does specialty coffee come from?  

Specialty coffee first originated from the USA. The market for high-quality coffee has been established for many years now in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, and France. It took until only a few years ago for these coffee beans to arrive in Europe as part of the third wave of coffee. This third wave of coffee started in 2002. Because of the work of pioneering craft roasteries and baristas, they can place an emphasis on the importance of the whole process from farmer to the cup.

The grading of specialty coffee 

In the grading, the coffees are evaluated from many different perspectives in the standardized method. The definition and grading have been created by SCAA and SCAE (https://www.scaa.org/PDF/resources/grading-green-coffee.pdf). After grading, the coffees can be divided into four quality categories : 

☕ 90 - 100 points (outstanding) 

☕ 85 - 89.99 points (excellent)

☕ 80 - 84.99 points (very good) 

☕ Below 80 points (below specialty quality)


These days, it’s not enough just to taste the coffee. People want to know the origins of their coffee beans, including how it was produced and roasted. Tasting coffee has become a multi-sensual experience! Now that you know more about a coffee specialty.

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