What Is Specialty Coffee?

The widely accepted definition of Specialty Coffee is coffee scoring 80 points or above on a 100-point scale.

Coffee scoring from 90–100 is graded Outstanding, coffee that scores 85–89.99 is graded Excellent, while coffee scoring 80–84.99 is graded Very Good. There's a general acceptance of a set of three minimum requirements across the international organizations: selective picking of mature beans by hand, scoring 80 or above, maximum 5 defects per 350g.

Much like wine, coffee flavor is affected by soil, altitude and other climatic factors and in Ethiopia alone there are reportedly over 10,000 varietals

Butucha Washing Station, Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia

While a tremendous amount of effort and attention is directed toward selecting the right bean, the industry recognizes that transportation, storage, roasting, packaging, brewing and preparation all affect the quality of the final product and as such, has developed or is in the process of developing standards for ensuring quality at each of these stages. This is an ongoing development of standards somewhat currently set by the industry leaders at each of those stages.

From our perspective our Roaster partners do an outstanding job at selecting, importing and roasting the best coffees on the earth. Further they're the ones communicating the stories of the farms, farmers and collectives as well as the growing and washing processes. Each has their own approach to the roasting craft, their roasting techniques create unique flavour profiles, developed at length and often now utilizing the technology of today for consistency of quality and output.

Without the quality inputs that roasters provide to us and farmers provide to them, we would not be able to produce our instant, extract or canned coffee to the high quality that we do.

3FE Specialty Instant Coffee c/o New Ground

As well as the protocols and standards that are in place, there is an utmost respect of the many hands that are integral to the supply chain. We’re constantly working to expand our understanding of working dynamics and processes at origin and to learn, develop and innovate at our end to add value to the industry.

So while there is a simple way to sum up what Specialty Coffee is with a few numbers on a scorecard, it's good to think about the many hands & variables that have played their part in getting that coffee to you.