The term “specialty” or “specialty” is now widely used. It’s everywhere on packaging and signage, and bartenders and roasters alike toss it around.
Not only has the definition of the term evolved throughout the 45 years since it was first used, but terms like “third wave,” “indie,” and “gourmet” have also become popular. In place of “specialist,” This only adds to the perplexity.
We spoke with various professionals in the coffee supply chain to clarify this definition and discover more about why the phrase needs to be redefined. Continue reading to find out more.
What Is The Difference Between Special Coffee And Regular Coffee?
The term “specialty coffee” is pretty simple to define. According to the Coffee Quality Institute, website coffee is considered a “specialty” when a certifier rates it at 80 or higher on the SCA 100 scale (such as a Q grader).
“Excellent” coffees have a score of 90 to 100, “excellent” coffees have a score of 85 to 89.99, and “excellent” coffees have a score of 80 to 84.99. Coffees with a score of less than 80 are classified as commodities rather than specialty coffees.
The SCA has a second, more extensive list of physical requirements for specialty grade coffee, which includes the following:
– There should be no more than five faults per 300g of coffee.
– There are no major flaws
– Up to 5% smaller or larger than the filter in size
Having at least one distinguishing feature in terms of shape, flavor, fragrance, or acidity
– There are no flaws or flaws
– There are no Quakers.
– Humidity ranges from 9% to 13%
What Has Changed In The Definition Of Special Coffee?
So, if a coffee receives a score of more than 80 out of 100 and fits these requirements, it is classified as a specialty coffee bean. What is the definition of specialty coffee, even though both the SCA test scale and the physical grading system provide objective criteria (with differing degrees of detail)? It appears to have changed its name.
Today, the term “specialty” is frequently interchanged with terms like “artisan,” It is commonly associated with principles like transparency, traceability, and direct commerce. Some people use it as a substitute for the concept of third-wave coffee because, unlike specialty coffee, it has no objective definition. Today, specialty coffee has expanded beyond an accurate description to encompass an ideal that serves the “specialty coffee community.”
SCA’s CEO and Chief Executive Officer are Yannis Apostolopoulos. He explained, “[Specialty coffee] is a movement where individuals share common ideas around what the coffee business can achieve.” For customers, it’s a pleasure of sipping a delicious cup of coffee.”
According to the SCA website, specialty coffee “can only arise when all parties in the coffee value chain work in harmony and maintain a strong focus on standards and excellence from beginning to end,” according to the SCA website.
Iordanis Iosifidis is the founder and CEO of Kafka Terra, a Greek roaster. He went on to say that the term specialty is often used to refer to other aspects of the coffee “experience.”
“These factors include the bartender’s ability, the brewing process employed, and the quality of professional coffee equipment… “They’re all crucial to the outcome,” he explains. final.”
Kemba Brian Warioba, the founder of Communal Shamba coffee in Tanzania’s southern highlands, is a coffee producer. “Grading is an excellent technique to ensure that quality is measured and maintained by professional standards,” he explains. “However, it has the potential to go beyond in terms of creating social impact and transformation along the value chain, beyond coffee.”
This leads to one of the most critical topics in the specialty coffee industry: sustainability.
“Specialty has been [particularly] linked to sustainability concerns over the last decade, including the implications of climate change, the [coffee] price crisis, and the remedies implemented,” Iordanis says. existence to promote coffee producers’ [total] livelihood and [stability].”
Difficulties In Current Definitions
Despite the term “specialty,” waves are frequently used to describe coffee. The first wave saw the introduction of famous, mass-produced commodity coffee, such as supermarket brands of instant coffee. Second wave coffee arose in the twentieth century, wemphasisingespresso-based beverages, and was popularized by chains such as Starbucks.
Third-wave coffee, on the other hand, abandoned the commodity concept in favor of paying higher costs for higher-quality coffee and acknowledged that coffee as a simple commodity had a problem.
It focuses on the coffee-drinking experience, emphasizing the importance of quality. It also places a premium on transparency and traceability across the supply chain and frequently seeks to reward manufacturers for their achievements.
Many people associate the “specialty coffee” ideal with the third wave of coffee. on the other hand, specialty coffee can be objectively characterized using standards such as those established by the SCA.
Today, however, the term “specialty” has two distinct meanings: ideal and one that relates to a classification system.
This is a severe issue. The more we expand the definition of specialty, the more coffee can be classified as such. As a result, we will lose impartiality if we depart from agreed-upon norms and start using “third wave” as a synonym for “specialist.”
According to Keremba, the term “specialty” provides value, particularly at the consumer end of the supply chain. This means that specialty coffee growers who follow a scoring system will be cut off from roasters, baristas, and customers who follow a different, second definition of coffee. What does it mean to have a “specialty”?
Coffee farmers might put in long hours to create specialty-grade coffee that meets the grading system’s requirements. However, there will be a perception gap if buyers, roasters, and consumers adopt different definitions.
“[These phrases] are sometimes used haphazardly as marketing jargon that doesn’t always correspond to reality on the farm,” Keremba argues. “To better exchange information, explain facts, and consider farmers as partners in the broader value chain, the specialty coffee value chain has to strengthen standards.”
What Will Change In The Definition?
“This is a complicated topic,” Iordanis explains. “A diverse collection of coffee experts must address it.” The most important thing is that we all agree on what the phrase means, and we must work toward that end.
“The SCA [tasting] form and [the Coffee Quality Institute’s approach] are both internationally acknowledged as proper ‘tools’ for evaluating green coffee, but there is always an opportunity for development.”
Samuel Demisse owns Keffa Coffee in Maryland. He claimed that this concept was insufficiently broad. “I don’t believe this word has a significant impact on farmers’ livelihoods,” he remarked. “What makes a difference for farmers is when [people] meet them in person… when they get a sense of what they go through to create that coffee.”
Previous benchmarks, according to Yannis, indicate that the sector will adapt naturally. “[The] World Barista Championship established standards that inspired and transformed the way espresso equipment is built today, resulting in energy management and precision innovation,” he stated. “I feel we now have a chance to influence the [specialty coffee] sector to become more sustainable and egalitarian,” says the author.
“We are seeing greater collaboration in this area, such as coffee regulators in producing nations and the SCA developing an inclusive community,” Keremba says. “However, it is critical to generate chances.”
. “It’s a platform for sharing information,” Keremba remarked. “This can be accomplished by [creating] SCA chapters in producing countries and providing cooperatives and farmers with appropriate membership alternatives.”
In reality, the term “specialty” has become overused in today’s coffee market. Some say that specialty coffee refers to coffees with a score of 85 or higher. While these would be more “special,” would that be fair to farmers who have invested in growing coffees with a score of 80 but less than 85 and expect premium selling prices?
Similarly, for roasters and larger coffee chains that have developed their brands around the term “specialty,” this can be a significant issue if the industry adopts a different definition. Consumers may reject them as specialized, leading erstwhile specialty coffee firms to recast themselves as trademarks.
Elitism is a problem as well. While both a coffee chain and an individual coffee shop can utilize coffees with a score of 80 or higher (and therefore be classified as a specialty), the difference in definition can lead to a person thinking of themselves as a specialty “more” than other coffees.
Finally, rather than redefining the phrase, it is suggested that we require a new meaning for the term “specialist.” This is due to a considerable ‘gap’ between the lower and upper levels of specialty coffee, such as the difference in what farmers pay for an 80 and 90-point coffee.
Coffees, whether specialty, third wave, independent, or chain, constantly change and evolve. By constantly modifying our knowledge of what specific terms represent, we must be sensitive to how it changes.
It’s unlikely that Erna Knutsen, who created the term “specialty” more than 45 years ago, could have predicted how it would change in the decades to come. Despite the lack of an objective definition, it is frequently interchanged with some of the industry buzzwords used by coffee professionals regularly.
To truly advance as a field, we must define, develop, and define what we mean by “specialist.” We will improve the participation and understanding for all actors involved in the coffee supply chain, from seed to cup, in this way.