The Basics - Part 1: So what is specialty coffee anyway?
In a nutshell....Specialty coffee is high quality coffee that meets the strict requirements of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) which include standards in all parts of the coffee supply chain. Producers of specialty coffee constantly have their coffee graded and rated. Specialty coffee is Arabica coffee with a grade of 80 or above (out of 100) when "cupped" or taste tested by a certified Q grader. This represents only about 10% of all Arabica beans worldwide!
This sets specialty coffee apart from “gourmet" coffee or regular commodity coffee, which have no strict definition and therefore could be decent quality coffee, or just good marketing.
Specialty coffee producers must pay attention to quality at every stage. Since the beans can’t have defects, the coffee plants need to be carefully cultivated and harvested at the right time, producers must adhere to best processing practices, and storage protocols.
The specialty coffee movement has actually been driven by the consumer! It is part of the "third wave" coffee movement which refers to the modern demand by consciousness consumers for exceptional quality coffee that is sustainably farmed, roasted and brewed to a significantly higher than average standard.