What is Specialty Coffee?
In the world of coffee we distinguish two main types of coffee - usually or commercial class, and special or specialty coffee. We will introduce you to what specialty coffee is, how it differs from the ordinary and why when we know what the differences are, we will prefer it to the ordinary.
Specialty coffee should not be confused with “gourmet” or “premium / premium” coffee. These are marketing names and there are no set standards for them. You will certainly not find specialty coffee in the neighborhood supermarket, because it is not mass-produced. Access to it is often extremely difficult. Imagine – the production of specialty coffee accounts for less than 5% of total coffee production in the world. This class of coffee is extremely rare and is produced in limited quantities. The remaining nearly 95% have probably already fallen before your eyes and in your cups in the form of ordinary coffee.
The production of high quality coffee requires a lot, variety and constant effort. For these reasons, it is grown in small batches. In addition, everything from the fertilizers used, to the presence of the sun, the altitude and even to the terroir, affects the quality of the coffee. Efforts begin with choosing a place to plant the coffee varieties preferred by the farmer. Attention to detail and dedication to the whole process must continue through the cultivation, picking, processing, baking and packaging of the beans.
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How is specialty coffee grown?
Instead of huge corporations, specialty coffee is primarily a product of the family business. Every farmer and people from his small team put a lot of effort to achieve quality end products. As we said, it requires absolute dedication and constant motivation from the very beginning, when choosing a terrain and assessing the environmental conditions – so you can grow the best possible coffee for these conditions.
The quantity produced in most cases is not more than 500 kg, and the microlots are from 20-40 kg. Ordinary coffee is grown in huge quantities and therefore the demand for high quality is not of paramount importance. Growing is automated and uses pesticides and fertilizers, which are unlikely to bring much health benefits to consumers.
How to pick specialty coffee?
Specialty coffee is almost always picked by hand. Each farmer has his own rules for the color and type of coffee fruit, which must be strictly followed by pickers. This is extremely important, as underripe or overripe fruit can affect the taste of more sour or bitter. As pickers are generally paid per kilogram, a specialty coffee is supplemented by a premium that compensates for the smaller volume. After picking, the cherries are inspected, because there may still be some that do not meet the criteria of the farmers. This ensures that only the highest quality fruit will move on to the next stages of processing.
As already mentioned, ordinary coffee is produced in large volumes and this predisposes to automate the entire production process. The coffee cherries are harvested entirely by machine, without observing how ripe each fruit is. Thus, in one place, along with well-ripened cherries, fall both overripe and still green fruits. This has a negative effect on the overall quality of the batch and changes the taste of the coffee to worse.
How is specialty coffee processed?
Like regular coffee, specialty coffee can be processed in three ways: dry, semi-dry and wet. In the dry process, the green grains are spread on a surface of different sizes and dried in the sun, stirring often. In the wet method, the pulp is first removed, then the grains are fermented in tanks and washed thoroughly with water.
Of course, great care must be taken here as well, because any mistake in creating the conditions for fermentation and subsequent washing can lead to impurities or disturbed taste balance. After drying, the grains are sorted by size and weight. Those that have any defects are removed. They usually go in batches of plain coffee packed in jute bags. Approved kilograms of specialty coffee are packed in special bags,
In specialty coffee, finding the most delicious profile is the task of the baker, after which the caper or taster tastes the samples of roasted coffee to approve its taste.
Roasting specialty coffee
Specialty coffee is baked in small family bakeries by traditional methods. It is often sold directly from the bakery to preserve its freshness and aroma . Keep in mind that the peak of the aromas after baking is on the 45th day, after which they begin to decrease and so on until the 6th month. That’s why most small bakeries put a baking date instead of an expiration date. Each large brand has its own bakery and factory, where it bakes, packages and sends to end users.
In specialty coffee, finding the most delicious profile is the task of the baker, after which the caper or taster tastes the samples of roasted coffee to approve its taste. And when this happens, the rest of the coffee will be roasted according to the specified roasting profile. With mass coffees, the profile of each coffee is almost impossible to make, so it is roasted there in the same way – the coffee just has to be roasted to fit into the package. Packaging for mass coffees is part of the roasting process, ie. everything is automated, while specialty coffee is baked by a baker, not by a machine operator, and packaged by hand, not by a machine. You have probably already noticed that the more special a coffee is, the smaller its cut. Many microlots are sold in packages of 20-40 years.
Alliance for Coffee Excellence is an organization founded 20 years ago by a group of coffee connoisseurs who, in collaboration with international governmental and non-governmental organizations, come together to show farmers that consumers value their work.
Quality standards for specialty coffee
To encourage and self-regulate, the specialty coffee industry, manufacturers, exporters, bakers, retailers and equipment suppliers have set up numerous local and national associations. There are such in the countries producing and consuming coffee and they maintain the standard for specialty coffee.
One such organization is the Alliance for Coffee Excellence, which organizes the Cup of Excellence – a competition for the best coffee in a particular region. Alliance for Coffee Excellence is an organization founded 20 years ago by a group of dedicated coffee connoisseurs and connoisseurs who, in collaboration with international governmental and non-governmental organizations, come together to show farmers that consumers value their work and efforts through this type of competition. and online auction. Capers or professional tasters from all over the world are invited to the tasting, who evaluate the coffees according to a 100-point system, and after the final result follows the exciting auction, where buyers from all over the world struggle to buy some of the best coffees in the world. region and year.
Special Coffee differs from ordinary coffee in the way it is grown, processed and roasted. It is not a mass product and to achieve the perfect taste requires a lot of effort and patience.