What is Specialty Coffee?

What is Specialty Coffee?

How many cups of coffee do you drink every day? 

One for breakfast, one after lunch, one during work in the afternoon, another after dinner...

According to statistics, in the Netherlands, most people drink three to four cups of coffee a day. What is the meaning of these three to four cups of coffee to each of us? Or, from another perspective, how does a cup of coffee satisfy our needs?

We rarely study or think about our own living habits, as most of the time we do things as we feel like. Coffee drinking, for some people, might be just to provide a sense of stimulation, especially during their work. It is a spiritual food for a better performance at work.

Before delving into why we drink three or four cups of coffee a day, I want to think outside the box and discuss a concept with everyone.

How far can you go for coffee?

"I didn’t think I’d be alive – but it was coffee that kept me awake, believe me!"
-Erna Knutsen, 2014

More than 50 years ago, there was a coffee enthusiast named Erna Knutsen (1921—2018) in San Francisco. Erna discovered that merchants often mixed a large number of low-quality and cheap Robusta coffee beans with good beans to expand their profits. Most people were already used to these low quality coffee beans. There were also issues like monopoly, exploitation, and oppression of farmers in the coffee industry. Erna hoped to revolutionize the entire industry, eliminating instant, canned coffee, and nasty, bitter Robusta coffee. She put forward the concept of fresh roasting, and hoped to introduce more excellent coffee beans in the United States that represent the flavors of different regions.

Erna is the legend of Specialty Coffee. She has dedicated her life to promoting the “Specialty Coffee Movement”.

What is Specialty Coffee?

Specialty coffee might have a different meaning nowadays, but we should never forget that its spirit is ultimately encouraging the entire coffee industry to keep on improving, and at the same time, eliminating all corrupted business practices in the industry.

By definition, Specialty Coffee is not necessarily equal to Single Origin Coffee.

Single Origin Coffee emphasizes its single variety, which includes a single production area, batch and processing method. We should note that the biggest difference between Single Origin Coffee and Specialty Coffee is that: Single Origin Coffee does not necessarily ensure high quality, and Specialty Coffee is not necessarily single in variety. But it is for sure that Specialty Coffee is delicious with excellent flavour!

"Consumers drank coffee with excellent flavor and would like to give good reviews, and consumers are satisfied."
- SCAJ, Specialty Coffee Association of Japan

In an objective perspective, referring to the standards established by the ACE (Alliance for Coffee Excellence), who evaluate coffee beans from different farms and origins every year, the overall scores of coffee beans must reach 80 points or above to be considered "Specialty Coffee". This standard is a kind of affirmation and respect for the hard work of coffee farmers. At the same time, this is a fixed standard, not a ranking, so there is no need to compete and fight against each other. Instead, everyone can help each other and focus on improving the quality of coffee.

What does it have to do with me?

Are you still drinking instant, canned coffee, or the bitter Robusta coffee, like the merchants and consumers of San Francisco in the past?

The emergence and development of Specialty Coffee is not solely promoted by coffee farmers. Where there is demand, there is supply. In addition to coffee farmers, green bean buyers, roasters, baristas, and consumers are also indispensable in this development. 

“This is not the work of only one person in the lifecycle of a coffee bean; specialty can only occur when all of those involved in the coffee value chain work in harmony and maintain a keen focus on standards and excellence from start to finish.”
- SCA, Specialty Coffee Association

Why do I like Specialty Coffee?

In addition to tasting the unique and outstanding flavor of coffee every day, I also want to support one meaningful thing: the progress of the coffee industry!

I hope that when you are drinking your three to four cups of coffee every day, you can also support this spirit with me!

Will you?