You hear the term “specialty coffee” being thrown around all over the place, but how many people actually know what that means? First of all, in order to understand what “specialty” is about, we have to take a look at the “regular”.
Regular coffee is really just mass-produced coffee, the one that ends up on supermarket shelves and which, on your bad days you drink for energy, and on your good days you drink for the taste. Specialty coffee is unique and distinct from regular coffee, with every type having a specific flavor profile that makes it remarkable. Let’s keep things less technical for now and have a look at the story of a “specialty” coffee bean told through its journey from farmer to drinker.
Just like any type of crop or agricultural produce, coffee beans can be grown in many ways, but for specialty coffee to gain its status it needs to be grown freely, at a natural pace. The story is as much the bean’s as it is the farmers’, the ones who devoted their lives to creating a special stock of beans which is uniquely theirs. It’s all about the dedication and patience they put into the process of growing and harvesting that gives specialty coffee its status.
The next important step in the life of a specialty coffee bean is reaching the buyer. This person is what is referred to as a “green buyer” insofar that they buy the beans unroasted. In the industry of coffee, green buyers function similarly to sommeliers, often being able to distinguish between many types of coffee through the color, taste, and smell of the beans. These experts are also the originators of the nomenclature and descriptions of specialty coffee breeds.
What follows the green buyer is the roaster. Depending on the information gathered at the buy, the roaster will know exactly what to monitor in the process of bringing the desired roast to a bean. They are experts in the physics and chemistry of coffee roasting, from the thermodynamic processes to the breakdown of proteins that has to take place in order for the coffee to be ready for brewing. This is where most of the magic happens since the roasting is going to determine a lot about the taste.
The last step in the process of making specialty coffee is the brewing. The more special the coffee is, the more likely a professional barista will handle this last and crucial effort. However, in most cases, the roaster and the barista will likely be the same person. Being a barista is mostly about experience, so repeatedly following recipes to a tee is the learning process that earns one the title of a specialty barista.
If you want to learn more about the different types of specialty coffee that are out there, come over on Goffee and read detailed descriptions of the different coffee beans and drinks available out there.