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What is specialty coffee and is it really that special?

2021-10-12
What is specialty coffee and is it really that special?

 

What is specialty coffee and is it really that exceptional?

Imagine that the coffee you drink every morning has gone through a several-year journey before it reaches your cup. That the coffee shrubs first grew for several years resembling jasmine, and when they finally blossomed, each fruit contained only two small beans. Imagine that to extract 10 to 20 kg of coffee beans, you first need to collect up to 100 kg of coffee cherries! And when the beans are released into the world, they undergo complex examinations and a special roasting process, only to end up in the hands that brew them. This is what specialty coffee is all about.

Where does specialty coffee come from?

The term "specialty coffee" was first used in 1974 by Erna Knutsen to describe coffee beans with the best flavor, produced in a special microclimate. It is coffee where quality matters. Throughout its production process, emphasis is placed on making it the best rather than making more of it. Its taste and aroma are decidedly richer and fuller than the flavor profiles of traditional coffees, and it is usually produced in Colombia, Ethiopia, Brazil, and Indonesia.

From a small bean to coffee in a cup – the journey of specialty coffee

For coffee to earn the designation of specialty, it must go through a long journey with four stops. These stops are plantation, inspection, roasting, and brewing. The plantation owner plants seeds for many years, tends to the coffee shrubs, and harvests the crops during the harvest. Then the beans undergo a meticulous, often manual selection, and the entire coffee production process is meticulously controlled according to the standards set by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and Europe.

The next step is to evaluate the quality of coffee according to a special scale. Experienced tasters assess its acidity, consistency, aftertaste, sweetness, flavor clarity, consider the dry and wet aroma, as well as the balance of flavor notes. Only those coffees that score a minimum of 80 out of 100 points after evaluating these criteria are recognized as belonging to the high-quality coffee segment.

Precisely selected beans undergo a roasting process carried out at a strictly defined temperature. This ensures that the highest quality flavor is extracted from each bean. Then the coffee reaches the hands of baristas or our own, where the final stage takes place, influencing the experience of its unique taste. To unleash the full potential of specialty coffee, it must be brewed properly.

But what sets specialty coffee apart from ordinary coffees? It's simple - uniqueness!

Ordinary coffees come from mass plantations, where the emphasis is on low production costs. Such coffee is always available because it is made from blends of different types of coffee - when one type of coffee is scarce on the plantation, it is simply mixed with others. This creates blends that often don't match in taste. In contrast, specialty coffee is not without reason also called "single origin". Why? Because if coffee trees don't blossom on a given plantation, there simply won't be any coffee. There are no blends here - this coffee is unique.

Specialty coffee, which usually does not differ in price from commercial coffees, stands out against their backdrop with an incredible richness of flavor. Depending on the chosen type, we can experience in its bouquet notes of caramel, nuts, tropical fruits, chocolate, or floral notes. It is coffee that you can brew in many alternative ways and once tasted, it will come to mind every time you drink regular coffee.

 

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